Aircraft Tracking On Horizon

June 05--Doha: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) confirmed a panel of international aviation experts expects to formulate measures over the next four months to ensure aircraft are properly tracked in real time after the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The panel, known as the Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF) and which represents the global airline trade group and other aviation bodies, intends to submit draft options for enhanced global aircraft tracking to the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September, leading to a presentation to the industry by year-end.

Following the disappearance of MH370, IATA announced plans to establish an industry task force to develop recommendations that would improve global flight tracking.

The commitment made at the time of the task force announcement was to have them available this year.

IATA invited the ICAO and key stakeholders throughout the aviation industry to participate in the ATTF. The first meeting of the group was held on May 13.

Separately but in conjunction with IATA, the ICAO held a special multidisciplinary meeting on global flight tracking from May 12-13.

An outcome of the ICAO meeting was a consensus among member states and the international air transport industry sector on the near-term priority to track airline flights.

The ICAO will also begin considering performance-based international standards on a priority basis to ensure broader adoption of airline flight tracking.

It will be working together with IATA to conduct a survey of vendors to identify options.

In the coming months, the ATTF will develop a set of performance-based recommendations that will better ensure global aircraft tracking, meaning there is likely to be a number of options that airlines can consider.

These recommendations will be developed through an assessment of available products and services used for tracking commercial aircraft against specific criteria including factors such as performance parameters, coverage, security and cost.

Additionally, the ATTF will define a minimum set of performance requirements that any system should achieve.

"Aviation stakeholders are united in their desire to ensure that we never face another situation where an aircraft simply disappears," said Kevin Hiatt, IATA's senior vice-president for safety and flight operations.

"While states work through the ICAO to develop and implement performance-based global standards, the industry is committed to moving forward with recommendations that airlines can implement now."

IATA director-general Tony Tyler on Monday cautioned the best options for global tracking would need to be affordable, saying that the streaming of data from flights could prove impractical and would not be part of the task force's remit.

Mr Tyler believes no one has any idea what happened to the missing plane. Until a cause is identified, IATA will focus on tracking to prevent other flights from vanishing.

"Much technology already exists that would enable this to happen. We need to review them, and one of the issues is the cost. It would be wrong to say that this is not an important consideration," he said.

Mr Tyler said an aircraft such as the one that vanished on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board "simply cannot disappear like this again".

Copyright 2014 - Bangkok Post, Thailand

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