Safety First

Satellite System to Track Aviation Flights

By: Camlynne Waring

"Saftey is our No. 1 priority in flight training,” says Anthony Remboldt, director of training for Walla Walla University’s aviation program. To bolster safety precautions even more, Remboldt has implemented a new system to monitor student flights by satellite.

Through the newly purchased Spidertracks system, the aviation program can now track movements of the entire training fleet, which means that there is a reduced risk of students get- ting lost when flying university aircraft.

“Students depend on a safe and comfortable atmosphere in which to learn,” Remboldt says. “The satellite tracking is one more asset to continue our strong safety record in aviation.”

Remboldt recognized the need for the system during the summer when working for Northwestern Aviation, an air taxi service in northern Alaska, that specializes in off-airport operations. Because of the tracking system’s reliability and features, the company uses it for tracking all their flights, including government charters.

Remboldt returned to WWU in the fall, determined to implement a tracking system for the aviation program. He wrote a proposal for capital funding, which was granted in December.

The system effectively eliminates the risk of losing students and aircraft. It takes an average of 40 hours to locate downed aircraft operating on a Visual Flight Rules flight plan. After 24 hours, the chance of death from serious injury rises signifi- cantly. The Spidertracks system eliminates the 40-hour search, so students can be rescued almost immediately.

“In the aviation program, we are constantly striving to provide the safest and most modern aircraft training experience possible,” says Remboldt. “This will be an invaluable item of safety if there is ever an accident or mishap.”

A small device installed in the aircraft monitors flight information such as time, speed, altitude, heading, and GPS position in real time. The data is sent via satellite to the tracking system and is used to analyze student flights, practice approaches, and track flights for safety and efficiency.

The system also makes it possible to give better estimates for arrival times. Before the system was in place, the dispatch office had limited communication with aircraft out of the local radius. Student pilots are now able to easily contact their instructors if they are experiencing difficulty. 

Published March 27, 2013 

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