POLITICS

ICAO delegates suggest 15-minute real-time aircraft tracking as standard

02/03/2015 02:04 EST | Updated 04/05/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization have recommended the adoption of a new standard that would see commercial aircraft tracked every 15-minutes.

The development was announced Tuesday as more than 850 participants gathered at a high-level safety conference at ICAO's Montreal headquarters.

"This new standard will be an important first step in providing a foundation for global flight-tracking," said ICAO Council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu in a statement.

He expects the standard to be adopted as early as the fall.

The recommendation was one of several made by a task force set up by the International Air Transport Association last year.

The group was set up after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went down on March 17, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

It was officially declared an accident last week.

The industry report suggested identifying the position of an aircraft at least every 15 minutes.

Currently, the vast majority of commercial flights are fully tracked, but there are gaps in certain areas of the world.

The ICAO safety conference is discussing how to improve the global tracking of aircraft and better share information on conflict zones.

Malaysia's civil aviation chief said Tuesday that real-time tracking is a priority and must be fast-tracked by the organization.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told delegates they shouldn't waste any more time debating it.

"We cannot delay in implementing changes in the way global commercial aviation operates currently," he said.

"On an average day, more than eight million people fly and (it) will be nothing short of negligence on our part to waste one more day."

One aircraft tracking proposal presented to the conference by NAV Canada suggests using satellites with a control centre based in Ireland.

Larry Lachance, a NAV Canada executive, said the service would use existing satellites and technology to track commercial aircraft.

"As a result, aircraft can be tracked in real-time, including over oceanic, polar and other remote areas," Lachance said.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 was one of two unprecedented tragedies involving Malaysia's major airline last year.

The other involved Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on July 17, 2014 while flying over a war-torn section of Ukraine.

Also Tuesday, there was support for developing a prototype online system to advise commercial airlines of potential risks in conflict zones.

Russia had suggested ICAO, the United Nations agency that governs civil aviation, develop a prototype before a final vote.

Sharing information saves lives, Azharuddin said.

"The world must view this tragedy as a wake-up call and we can no longer be complacent and must take preventive measures now," he said.

The high level safety conference continues Wednesday.

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