Would the airline pilots be able to get instant technical assistance from the ground?

Today, ground systems receive only a tiny trickle of information while the airplane is in flight. But with communication channels steadily improving (systems like 2Ku promise satellite bandwidth in 10s MBps range), we should be able to channel enough data to almost make the flight data recorders redundant.

Can we go one step further and set up a NASA-style mission control centers for commercial flights? The workflow should go approximately like this:

  1. The plane is flying and constantly transmitting flight data to ground control center at low bandwidth (but still higher than is practiced today);

  2. When plane's systems detect any kind of abnormal situation, data feed is switched to high-bandwidth, and ground control center is alerted;

  3. Software at the ground control center processes the alert as well as expanded data stream and may decide to escalate the situation to human personnel;

  4. Human personnel reviews the alert and may initiate a conversation with plane's pilots. Pilots can request assistance from ground control at any time;

  5. Ground control specialists can request the plane to stream specific data, depending on situation;

  6. In the end, instead of two pilots, whose training may be questionable, we have a team of specialists working to resolve the situation.

Today, air traffic control can help the pilots somewhat, but they don't have any data feed and can't help with technical issues. Airline companies collect some flight data, but only a little. I don't know if it's a norm in the industry to maintain 24/7 "ground control centers". What is clearly different in my proposal is that pilots don't have to explain everything to ground control. Ground control would have all the data and should be able to advise pilots sometimes even before they are aware of any emergency.

Do you think the plan above would be helpful and technically feasible?

P.S. My question is different from "Could the CVR and FDR record to the cloud?" because I'm not looking for 100% data dump (transmitted data would always fit the available bandwidth) and actually look for a more advanced solution of taking a real time action by the ground control.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Technically feasible, of course. With enough money and a commitment from the industry almost anything is possible. And while it sounds like a good idea at first, I am struggling to envision a scenario where the benefits of such a system would exceed what can be accomplished with a trained crew assisted by ATC under the current system. Can you offer a specific example of a situation where streaming data to the ground might help the pilot? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ A lot of this is already in place. For example, Collins Aerospace has ARINCDirect which is installed on a majority of commercial flights that includes the ability to monitor aircraft health and fault reports. Many pilots can contact "company" directly during a flight, either by phone, CPLD, VHF or other means to help diagnose issues in-flight. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ "24/7 ground control centers" broadly exist in the form of airline dispatch offices, which track and monitor flights and coordinate communications with the crew when there are issues, though not with entirely the full stream of real-time telemetry you contemplate (there is also engine telemetry, which may be sent to the manufacturer to determine future maintenance needs). So I'd read up on what dispatchers do. But it's hard to contemplate how this is helpful in an emergency where immediate action must be taken, and if there's no urgency, then things can be talked through as they are now. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Could the CVR and FDR record to the cloud? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Hall I can think of a number of accidents that could have been prevented. For example, both 737 MAX Boeing crashes (Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302) as well as Helios Airways Flight 522. However, if the accident was preventable, we can always argue that it was a pilot training issue. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 3:38


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