Performance approach planned for future global flight tracking

International aviation will initially develop a performance-based approach in readiness for any future worldwide standards requiring global flight tracking.
UN aviation agency ICAO announced the move after a two-day summit at its Montreal headquarters in response to public calls for global flight tracking following the disappearance of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8.
ICAO’s director of air navigation Nancy Graham said the summit had identified a way forward including near, mid and longer term activities and that in terms of immediate efforts, ICAO was supporting the work of a task force led by international airline body IATA. “Industry is in absolute solidarity to put in place global aircraft tracking,” said Graham.
In April, IATA announced its intention to establish an industry-led task force to identify technical and procedural options to enable flight tracking capability across the world.
IATA said at that point that industry recognised that an ICAO standard would likely be needed eventually to ensure full  implementation around the world and uniform regulatory frameworks
The 20-member task force which will offer invaluable technical expertise will include experts from ICAO, airlines, flight safety organisations, manufacturers, air navigation service providers, flight tracking equipment and service providers, pilots and air traffic management experts.
Together they will examine available options for tracking commercial aircraft, considering implementation, time, complexity and cost efficiency to achieve worldwide coverage. In particular, it will assess the responses to an ICAO survey of vendors offering 23 possible technical solutions, examining existing capabilities and taking reporting parameters, reliability, accuracy and coverage into account.
IATA’s Kevin Hiatt who is senior vice president of safety and flight ops said the task force will identify and assess the most viable technical solutions over the near, mid and long term.
Graham said a good example of a performance requirement rather than a strict equipage mandate would be the ability to locate a missing aircraft within 6NM using perhaps up to three or four existing onboard systems in order to comply.
“Together we have identified a path forward and this task force will choose the methodology to put in place. We have a plan going forward. It’s very near term and very aggressive,” she said.
The task force’s efforts will launch at a June 10 meeting followed by monthly meetings for a series of days until the end of September when it plans to offer possible solutions to ICAO  and which can be taken forward by industry to implement.
That will be a voluntary initiative while, on a parallel track, ICAO will be building a performance-based standard for the midterm. “That process takes longer, takes time,” said Graham. “Collaboration is lengthy but it is important and we will learn from the initial implementation by industry and that will ultimately allow for total harmonisation around the world.”
Hiatt explained that although surveillance over open seas exists today using basic radar, communications and ADS-B satellite tracking technology, not all aircraft were equipped to the same standard and surveillance coverage was not consistent around the world.
He said the task force would assess the different technological solutions and choose the best ones to take forward bearing in mind those different capabilities within the global fleet.
“I think we can say that by the end of the year implementation will begin and there are some that have started that process already,” said ICAO’s Graham.
In term of other midterm efforts Graham reported that ICAO is already working on a draft concept of operations, gathering existing operational practice and making protocols easier to understand for the many stakeholders involved. Graham added that ICAO would also be encouraging a series of drills and scenarios to be conducted all over the world “that will enable an extraordinary rare event to be drilled so we exercise the many relationships involved on a frequent basis.”
Hiatt said that by September when the task force will have identified solutions and made its recommendations, equipage cost may not necessarily be such an important factor. “One solution may not be the same as another so there could be some cost differences depending on existing equipage. It could perhaps simply require a software change to transmit the data that is needed,” he said.
Graham said: “In the long term we want one technological solution that is totally harmonised and we need to do that with a standard.”

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