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PRODUCT FEATURE
No Excuse For M
By Rachel Donald
No Excuse For Missing Aircraft Spidertracks has taken aircraft track-
ing technology another leap forward with
When Steve Fossett went missing in the launch of spiderwatch, a flight fol-
September 2007 no amount of resources lowing solution that actively watches
could locate the millionaire businessman over every flight. but the
in his Bellanca light aircraft. Had he made Spiderwatch was launched at AirVen- problems
a small investment in an aircraft tracking ture 2009 as an alternative safety system that caused
system before he took off the story might to Emergency Locator Transmitters the 121.5s to
have ended quite differently. (ELTs) as the spiderwatch system sends fail, are still
Aircraft tracking technology is not new, emergency alerts automatically as soon as going to cause
but the advent of small, portable and af- an accident occurs. problems for the
fordable tracking devices has made this Spidertracks director Bruce Bartley 406s.
technology accessible to all. New says it’s a simple concept that could revo- “Because the
Zealand-based spidertracks was at the lutionise how pilots think about flight spiderwatch alert is
leading edge of that evolution, being the tracking and safety. generated from the
first to launch a tracking device that did “We think spiderwatch has potential to system, not by the unit
not require external antenna and could be replace the need for traditional flight plan- in the aircraft, it doesn’t
powered by simply plugging in to the aux- ning, and it’s certainly an alternative or matter if the spider is
iliary power source. This significantly re- complementary system to ELTs. damaged in the crash. You
duced or eliminated installation costs. “Studies into the effectiveness of ELTs can rely on it to send an
Coupled with low up front cost, this en- in have found that they fail to activate in alert 100 per cent of the
abled large operators to outfit their entire over 80 per cent of accidents. The cause time.”
fleets, giving operations managers the of the failures – high impact, fire, aerial Spiderwatch is automatically
peace of mind of knowing where their air- damage, or because they are submerged turned on when the aircraft accel-
craft were at all times, but also enhanced are common in aircraft accidents. The erates through 40 knots. This tells
management capability and cost savings newer 406MHz beacons generate fewer the system to ‘actively’ monitor the
through greater efficiency. false alerts than the old 121.5MHz ELTs flight. If the spider tracking device
loses power, as would happen in a crash,
the system loses contact with the spider,
triggering text and email alerts to be auto-
matically sent to recipients nominated by the
user. If the first tier of recipients doesn’t can-
cel the alert because they have contacted the
pilot, the system sends the alert to a second
tier of recipients that should include local
rescue services. To cancel the monitoring
at the safe completion of the flight, all the
pilot has to do is press one button on the
spidertracks keypad.
Spidertracks pioneered the concept
of active monitoring with its keypad,
which enabled pilots to activate ‘moni-
toring’ mode if they encountered bad
weather, for example. This told the
website to actively watch over their
flight and send alerts to the pilot’s con-
18 ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL • July 2009
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