Victim’s iPhone Helps Locate Plane Crash


Reports that the location of a Chilean military transport CASA 212 Aviocar that crashed Sept. 4 at sea, killing all 21 aboard, was identified thanks to a victim’s submerged iPhone may be overstated, but the phone’s role is still compelling. A Google-provided translation of text from an original Argentine source states that a victim aboard the high-wing twin turboprop owned an iPhone 4 and equipped it with an app called “Find my iPhone.” The translated article states that the smartphone was “still transmitting its signal” after the crash and allowed for underwater triangulation to pinpoint the crash site near Robinson Crusoe Island. While that may not be the case, one victim’s relatives’ use of the app was provided to help authorities find the crash site, and the process may have made an argument for real-time telemetry.

Using the app, relatives of one victim of the crash isolated the last known coordinates the smartphone generated before the crash. They took the information to search teams, which used the information in their search. The teams were able to plot the airplane’s last position and soon found debris — so far none of it has been as large as two feet in size. Two undersea robots scouring the sea in the area were hindered by weather as the search continued. Using a record of relatively real-time data to aid in maintenance tracking and rescue or emergency response operations has recently been an idea championed by Star Navigation. That company produces TerraStar, a system it hopes will replace flight data recorders. TerraStar is a new “black box” that actively monitors and transmits data from the aircraft to a secure ground station where it is collected. AVweb‘s Glenn Pew spoke with Star Navigation CEO Viraf Kapadia about the system that could ultimately make traditional data recorders (and some accidents) obsolete in this podcast from 2010.