Why the technology to track missing planes hasn't taken off

The search for the missing EgyptAir Flight 804's voice and data recorders raises new questions about why flight information is not broadcast in real time.

The technology already exists and would provide investigators quick access after a crash, but airplanes have been slow to adopt it, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

After Air France Flight 447 crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009, it took almost two years and $40 million to retrieve its black boxes from the bottom of the Atlantic.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's flight recorders still haven't been recovered because no one knows exactly where in the Indian Ocean to look.

"I can find my kids by pinging their iPhone. We shouldn't have aircraft that disappear anywhere in the world today," said former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.

Hersman wants planes to stream black box data whenever something unusual happens, in order to help investigators.

"We want to make sure that when they arrive on scene, they don't have to go down to the ocean floor to find those recorders," Hersman said. "They have some of the most important information in their hands right away."

Last year, Qatar Airways said its entire fleet will eventually stream flight data. First Air, a regional carrier in Canada, is already doing so.

According to Matt Desch, CEO of satellite communications company Iridium, black box streaming technology can cost tens of thousands of dollars to install and maintain on each aircraft.

"It may be that airlines are trying to figure out what is the best, most cost-effective solution that will fit all of their issues," Desch said.

The current system relies on ground-based radar to monitor planes. But that leaves more than 70 percent of the world uncovered.

One alternative is using satellites to track a plane's GPS transponder, which would relay its speed, altitude and location. Iridium hopes to have such a system up and running by 2018.

"A global surveillance system can track that airplane down to the second and help you find it very quickly," Desch said.

Aircraft already transmit engine performance data in flight, but Hersman thinks many airlines won't take steps to stream additional information without a push from regulators.

"We have the ability to do Wi-Fi on the plane. It's about making sure that the safety data gets as much priority as the entertainment," Hersman said.

Another reason change has been slow is that the system by and large still works and additional costs could be passed on to the flying public. It may be inefficient and unwieldy at times, but the vast majority of black boxes are recovered, eventually.