Airlines can’t wait years for tracking solution

Carriers say the tracking technology is available today

Mystified and worried by the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370, some airlines are not waiting for industry associations to come up with a solution to aircraft tracking. They are looking for their own ideas.

“It must not happen again,” said the International Air Transport Association’s director general, Tony Tyler, at its annual meeting in Doha. Airlines, meanwhile, tend to agree that the costs of implementing a tracking system would have to be passed on the passenger.

IATA says it will put tracking proposals to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September, which in turn says a standard could be in place in two to three years. That’s too long for airlines, something Tyler himself acknowledges.

However, Qatar Airways, which is hosting the meeting, says the technology is available today, explaining that changes to the existing ACARS Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System can deliver communication in short bursts. The air transport communications company SITA also says a tracking system can use technology already installed on planes.

Other airlines looking for their own solutions include Japan’s All Nippon Airways – and Malaysia Airlines. Planes operated by IAG send out performance and location data through ACARS every 30 minutes. Air France-KLM says it does this every 10 minutes – and every minute if there is an abnormal deviation.


[photo courtesy Riga International Airport]

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