Tuesday February 03, 2015

Implement mandatory airplane tracking, says Air Safety Investigators


It has been made official, Malaysian airlines flight 370's disappearance was an accident. Since it was lost, the International Air Transport Association has pushed for satellite tracking systems on planes. As the airline industry converge today for a meeting of the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization, the push for tracking devices on planes ratchets up a notch.

Last week, after nearly a year of fruitless searching, Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation declared that Flight MH370 had been an accident ... and that the 239 passengers and crew on board were presumed dead. This will now make it possible for family members to claim compensation.

But the announcement did not sit well with some of the victims' families.

"If they took our feelings into consideration, then they would have waited until the search was over, not announce it yet. Finish the whole search."

Jacquita Gonzales, wife of MH370's in-flight supervisor Patrick Gome

Of course, it's a wonder that the search itself could have gone on for so long and that a modern airliner could have simply disappeared in the first place ... vanishing from any radar screen mid-flight.

Last year, when global attention was centered on the missing flight, there were repeated calls for better flight tracking systems. And now, action may be on its way.

Later today, a new global standard for mandatory real-time aircraft tracking is expected to be recommended as members of the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization meet at a safety conference in Montreal. Malaysia is among those countries pushing for the new standard.

Robert MacIntosh is a former air safety investigator who used to be the United States' Accredited Representative from the National Transportation Safety Board for foreign investigations. He is at the conference as the Treasurer of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators.

The expected flight tracking announcements coming out of today's conference in Montreal are generating a lot of hope that they could one day make a real difference in handling tragedies such as flight MH370. But some veterans of the aviation industry are skeptical about what they might accomplish.

  • David Learmount is the Operations and Safety Editor for Flight Global. He's been covering the aviation safety beat for 35 years. He was in London, England.

  • Stuart Baskcomb is an independent aviation safety consultant at Delta System Solutions. He was in Munich, Germany.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant and Sonya Buyting.