The year 2014 marked a handful of tragic airline disasters. In March, Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing over the South China Sea. On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines MH17 was shot down over Ukraine. On July 24, Air Algerie 5017 crashed in Mali. And just two days ago, AirAsia QZ8501 disappeared over the Java Sea.

Debris from that flight was found today and the recovery of evidence and bodies has begun, including the search for the jet's flight data recorder or “black box.”

But technology already exists that would allow the missing flight’s condition, engine performance, cockpit conversations and other data to be streamed real-time back to the airline’s headquarters or manufacturer.

That kind of information would help pinpoint what went wrong more quickly than a months- or years-long search for the box. The data recorder for the 2009 Air France flight 447 that disappeared over the south Atlantic took two years to find. Some aviation experts say it’s time to put real-time tracking technology into place.

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“Such a solution is long overdue, considering the state of technology today and the overriding importance of providing timely data to investigators,” Alan Diehl, a former accident investigator, told the Wall Street Journal.

Yet others note that modern aircraft produce terabytes of data that would overwhelm satellite transmission and digital storage devices back home.

“It is technically feasible, but the question is whether it is worth the cost,” said John Hansman, director of the International Center for Air Transportation at MIT. “I would rather have good air traffic control communications supporting better pilot decision making rather than using bandwith to dump data off airplanes.”

After the 2009 Air France crash, European aviation regulators supported the goal of planes being able to beam down safety data. And some aircraft already transmit their position through satellite links rather than relying on ground-based radar scans.

One of the black boxes recovered from Air France Airbus A330, which crashed into the Atlantic in 2009.Bureau of Analysis and Research of France (BEA)

In 2010, one computer expert proposed a kind of “glass box” of streaming airplane data instead of a hard-wired black box on Discovery News.

As passengers demand more in-flight Internet access, the possibility of using a satellite uplink to transmit additional aircraft data seems like a good one. But MIT’s Hansman warned that it would slow down data rates for those very same passengers.

He noted that the operation to recover the Air France data recorder cost $30 million. That’s still less than the cost of collecting satellite data from tens of thousands of aircraft circling the globe every day.

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Sean Cassidy, safety coordinator for the Air Line Pilots’ Association, agreed that it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“There’s a difference between sending a maintenance report and sending a massive gob of real-time streaming data that could occupy an amazing amount of bandwith,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy, like many aviation experts, is still baffled as to what happened to Malaysian flight MH370. He said modern airplanes like the Boeing 777 that disappeared have satellite transponders that send location, speed and altitude data to the manufacturer and the airline company.

“The bigger question I have is why can’t they find the airplane,” Cassidy said.

“It could be that radar coverage wasn’t accurate or comprehensive. There are still places in the world where sometimes radar coverage is a little spotty. Those are questions that are being pored over right now.”