Clare-based aircraft locating service already saving lives

Clare-based aircraft locating service already saving lives


The new system was launched on this day last year at the IAA facility at Ballygirreen.

The Clare-based, world’s first-ever, global emergency aircraft locating service has already been responsible for locating a lost pilot and saving his life.

Aireon Aircraft Location and Emergency Response Tracking (ALERT), operated out of the North Atlantic Communications Centre in Ballygirreen in Clare, held in the rescue of pilot after his plane lost engine power and crashed.

It was this day, last year, the the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) launched the new system providing critical, on-demand data to companies and organisations across the world.

For the 12 months year, Aireon ALERT has been assisting in search and rescue efforts all around the world.   Since its launch, Aireon ALERT has processed 43 emergency requests for data as of June 8th, 2020, several of which provided defining data in life and death situations.

The service and quality of the data has been globally welcomed by search & rescue organisations and has been endorsed for use by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Additionally, the ALERT service has received international recognition as the winner of the inaugural Air Traffic Management ATM Award for Service Provision in 2019.

Aireon ALERT has 390 active registrants, made up of 147 airlines, 104 air navigation service providers, 67 national civil aviation regulators, 55 search & rescue organisations, and 17 others from across 119 countries.

A notable save over this past year was in December 2019. Don Hinkel’s 1090 Cessna P210N engine failed mid-flight over Bahamian airspace. Terrestrial-based sources indicated his last known target at 1,300 feet, however, space-based data showed the last known position of the aircraft was more than two nautical miles away and had tracked the altitude down to sea-level, providing the U.S. Coast Guard the aircraft’s precise location.

As a result, SAR was able to narrow their search parameters and find the pilot alive, treading water in the ocean without a life jacket, as the aircraft had sunk after ditching. After just three hours, the pilot was recovered alive, but exhausted, 55 meters from the position provided by Aireon ALERT.

Sean Patrick, General Manager, Oceanic Development & NAC at the IAA commented on the anniversary: “Within our first year of operations, Aireon ALERT has already made a huge impact on the industry for the better. Our team at the North Atlantic Operations centre in rural County Clare provides the ALERT service 24 hours a day, every day, and we are proud to play such a critical role in delivering this life-saving service to airlines and search & rescue organisations across the globe.

The extraordinary accuracy of this data, coupled with its rate of delivery and immediate availability to the requesting party, makes it the most reliable emergency aircraft location service available. It is completely unique, and it is completely free.”

Then Mayor of Clare, now Cathal Crowe TD, at the launch last year – Photo: © Pat Flynn 2019