ICAO pushes for aircraft tracking standard

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Image: © Thinkstock | Calvin Sun

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will propose for commercial aircraft to report their position every 15 minutes in order to avoid a repeat of the disappearance of MH370.

An ICAO spokesperson said that the new reporting interval standard will be presented at a high-level safety conference in Montreal next month and could be quickly adopted due to most aircraft already having the required technology.

The shift to more frequent reporting of the aircraft’s position will help to refine the potential search and rescue (SAR) area if an aircraft does disappear.

The move comes after the Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF)—established by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in the aftermath of MH370—submitted its findings to ICAO in December recommending airlines improve their tracking capacity by making use of technology already available in their fleets.

The recommendations also called for airlines to analyse the business case for upgrading equipment over the next three years as the industry progresses towards space-based tracking of high-capacity aircraft.

As Flight Safety Australia reported last year, space-based tracking using the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system is promises to be an effective and efficient way to standardise aircraft tracking in the future. The system is already used in most high-capacity jetliners and will become mandatory over the next ten years.

Current ADS-B systems are dependent on ground infrastructure, but satellites with ADS-B receivers are being developed. These could provide tracking in the most remote corners of the globe.

The task force also addressed the ‘inescapable truth’ that the transponder on MH370 had stopped working and recommended airlines ‘work with manufacturers and other industry stakeholders to explore the possibility of making systems tamper proof’.

Although ICAO is unlikely to address the issue of tamper proof transponders in the short term, it remains a pivotal point in preventing a reoccurrence of MH370.

However, as Tony Tyler, director general of IATA, said with the release of the taskforce’s recommendations, 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’, suggesting a failsafe system may still be some way off.

Tyler concluded ‘…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.’

You can read more of Tyler’s remarks on IATA’s website and view the meeting agenda for ICAO’s upcoming high-level safety conference.

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