"The world was very astounded to find out that people didn't know where the airplanes are." --Duane Woerth, a former U.S. Ambassador to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
The search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has left the aviation industry scrambling to find ways to prevent the tragedy of losing a flight from happening again. Many across the world have voiced anger and bewilderment over the inability to keep track of planes at all times. Air traffic control over oceans especially is considered by aviation experts to be "grossly inadequate."
According to USA Today, many challenges prevent airlines and government regulators from being able to track planes around the world. These challenges include:
· limited radar over oceans
· airlines not wanting to pay for maintaining satellite links with their fleets
· worldwide governments not requiring airlines to maintain frequent enough contact with their aircraft
Airlines and government regulators have come together to devise ways to improve flight tracking systems voluntarily and will begin to negotiate a standard requiring better tracking next year. However, it could take two years to implement any tracking standards that are agreed to, potentially trying the patience of air travelers. What is worse, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – a branch of the United Nations that makes policy recommendations to governments – a rule exists already which mandates government regulators to require airlines to track their airplanes. That requirement, however, has "never been enforced."
“This lack of oversight needs to change or the Malaysia Airlines victims will have (presumably) died in vain,” stated Ilyas Akbari, an aviation attorney from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman.
What has been Done to Improve Flight Tracking?
· May 2014 – Airlines represented in the International Air Transport Association agree to voluntarily improve flight tracking.
· June 2014 – An aviation task force met with industry vendors and providers of services to see what is readily available to improve flight tracking now. The task force is also looking into which airlines are already tracking flights.
What is Being Proposed to Improve Flight Tracking?
· September 2014 – The aforementioned task force will make recommendations to ICAO about better ways to track flights.
· February 2015 – ICAO is slated to hold a conference in which flight tracking standards will be agreed to with a goal of implementing these standards within two years.