Flight 477 prompts calls for technology updates

The crash of a French passenger airliner could help change the face of several key aviation technologies. With officials warning they may never find the black boxes from Air France Flight 477, some experts are calling for a feature that would automatically stream flight data to land-based computers, making on-board recorders redundant. One former NTSB official says such transmissions are "totally possible today" and already in use at some helicopter fleets. Meanwhile, the mid-ocean crash also is ratcheting up pressure for satellite-based GPS tracking of aircraft, because current radars extend only 200 miles from land. Besides helping air traffic controllers keep better watch over aircraft, satellite-based systems also can beam real-time weather maps directly into airplane cockpits -- a feature that might have saved the Air France plane. "The point is if we have GPS to monitor airplanes, could it save lives?" asks aviation consultant Michael Boyd. "The answer is clearly yes."

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