Proposed Guidelines Would Track Airplanes in Real-Time – But Only in Emergencies

Nearly two full years after the MH370 disaster, an international aviation organization has announced new guidelines that would help authorities track troubled aircraft during emergency situations.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations panel, released the new provisions in Montreal, Canada, on March 8th, 2016, citing the need to find cost-effective, reliable solutions to recovering missing or endangered aircraft.

“These developments are consistent with the findings and recommendations of the multidisciplinary Ad-Hoc Working Group ICAO formed after Malaysia Airlines MH370 went missing in May 2014,” said Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of the International Civil Aviation Organization. “They directly support the concept of operations for the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) which was proposed by ICAO at that time, and will now greatly contribute to aviation’s ability to ensure that similar disappearances never occur again.”

The UN agency detailed three main points of emphasis to amend Annex 6 of the Chicago Convention (Operation of Aircraft), which will take effect beginning immediately through the end of 2021. The amendments include:

– A requirement for commercial aircraft to be equipped with autonomous distress tracking devices that broadcast location information at least once per minute.

– Aircraft must have the capability to provide emergency responders flight recorder data “in a timely manner.”

– Extending cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours to fully encompass all phases of the flight.

These provisions do not dictate specific technologies or equipment, leaving the door open for manufacturers and aviation officials to consider all means of current and emerging technologies to meet the requirements set forth by the ICAO.

Officials say that the new provisions will narrow the location of aviation accident sites within six nautical miles and will provide emergency responders with flight recorder data more quickly than ever before. These provisions also hope to curtail the costs of search and rescue operations – a notable element given the reported costs of MH370 recovery efforts.

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