Airlines across the world are to be tasked with ensuring their aircraft tracking capabilities are as good as practically possible and with closing any gaps within the next year.
Speaking at a media event, airline industry chief Tony Tyler said an IATA-led industry task force set up in the wake of the disappearance of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has now submitted its report to UN aviation agency ICAO.
He said the cross industry report includes a set of performance criteria for aircraft tracking and will lead ultimately to a new Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System or GADSS that has been developed by an ICAO group of experts whose vision goes far beyond the new performance criteria.
“Airlines are taking the tracking issue very seriously,” insisted Tyler. “Some already exceed the report’s suggested performance criteria. For others, closing the gap may take more than a 12 month timeline for every aircraft.”
“As aircraft operators, our members took a serious and practical look at the recommendations. While they are committed to improving, they could not fully endorse what would be practically unachievable for some,” he added.
The IATA approach has several phases:
- In the short term, make use of what is already available in their fleets and areas of operation.
- In the near term, look at the business case for upgrading equipment to meet the performance criteria.
- In the medium term, monitor new technologies which will become available, including space-based systems
- In parallel, work with manufacturers and other industry stakeholders to explore the possibility of making systems tamper proof.
“This last point addresses the inescapable truth of MH370 that the transponder stopped working,” said Tyler. “Without speculating on what happened, redesigning the aircraft’s failsafe systems to make sure that transponders cannot be shut off is well beyond the near-term focus of the task force.”
“So the public should be aware that there is no silver bullet solution on tracking. The industry is working to improve, but some issues such as tamper proofing, will take time to address and implement. Remember, the sealing of cockpit doors after 9/11 took several years to complete.”
“In the meantime passengers can be reassured that MH370 was an extremely rare, if not unique event. Even though aircraft cannot be tracked in all cases, flying is safe. Over 100,000 flights operate safely every day. And new technology will play an important role in making the system even more robust.”
The task force report which has been presented t0 ICAO recommends that all aircraft should transmit information on longitude, latitude, altitude and local time to permit four-dimensional tracking, which should be accurate to within at least 1 nautical mile and reported every 15 minutes — or more often in the event of an alert.
Transmission will not be required where there is air traffic surveillance or airline contracts for the automatic periodic downloading of data.
Read More: On Track How IATA’s near-term performance-based approach for normal airline operations will lead on to universal flight tracking standards that will ensure full implementation around the world and a uniform regulatory framework.
ICAO web page for the February 2015 Safety Conference. This features a working paper giving a detailed status of the work on tracking and a public version of the GADSS document. That ICAO conference is where the topic will be discussed in detail.