MAS opted out of Boeing maintenance service, says report

Malaysia Airlines opted out of a Boeing service that collects real-time performance data from jetliners such as flight MH370 that is useful in planning maintenance, Bloomberg reported today.

David Greenberg, a former operations executive at Delta Air Lines, told the news agency that Boeing’s Airplane Health Management programme would have provided a back-up to the airline’s own surveillance of the plane, allowing Boeing to mine data and help airlines detect mechanical faults early.

Bloomberg said that a spokesman for Malaysian Airlines referred questions about the in-flight communications system to a company statement, which the carrier said all contact was lost with MH370 as it approached Vietnamese airspace.

The airline did not respond when asked about the Boeing programme.

Wilson Chow, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, also declined to comment about Malaysia Airlines in a phone interview conducted by Bloomberg.

“All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically,” the carrier was quoted as saying.

“Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed.”

New Scientist magazine, however, said that the missing wide-body aircraft sent at least two bursts of technical data back to the airline before it disappeared.

The data may help investigators understand what went wrong with the aircraft, no trace of which has been found yet since it disappeared on Saturday morning, the magazine reported yesterday.

"Malaysia Airlines has not revealed if it has learned anything from the ACARS data, or if it has any," it said, referring to the system, which automatically collates and files four technical reports during every flight so that engineers can spot problems.

These reports are sent via VHF radio or satellite at take-off, during the climb, at some point while cruising, and on landing.

Bloomberg added that Boeing tapped the same ACARS data through satellite links for subscribers to its service.

About 75% of Boeing 777s, the planemaker’s biggest twin-engine model, use the maintenance and monitoring programme, it said in 2013. – March 12, 2014.