ICAO Expects Tracking Standard Within Two Years

 - June 5, 2014, 5:22 PM
ICAO and the International Air Transport Association are working toward a standard for aircraft tracking within two years, said Air Navigation Bureau director Nancy Graham. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) expects to complete a global standard for aircraft tracking in less than two years, Nancy Graham, director of the organization’s Air Navigation Bureau, said on June 5. Some airlines with the capability have already started automatic tracking, she told the RTCA Symposium in Washington, D.C.

In the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, air transport industry groups agreed on a framework to develop a tracking mandate during a special meeting at ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal on May 12-13. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is leading a task force that will develop detailed proposals by the end of September.

Addressing the annual RTCA event, Graham said that an ICAO group is developing a concept of operations for aircraft tracking—another outcome of the Montreal meeting—drawing upon the chairmen of its different standards-making panels, the IATA secretariat and a few “key” airlines. “The IATA task force will then evaluate the solutions,” she said. “We will come to a standard on a parallel track, and in less than two years we’ll have a standard for global tracking.”

Graham described the unresolved loss of MH370 as a “significant crisis” that compels the air transport industry to take action even before a mandate. “I’ve been in Kuala Lumpur three times in the last two months. We may not feel it here so much, but around the rest of the world it’s really shaken public confidence in aviation,” she related. “My view is that (airlines) should move out as an industry and do this voluntarily. They should not wait for a standard…and they’ve done that.”

Airlines that have already equipped their aircraft to regularly signal their position in space “are beginning to turn it on,” and 23 vendors have indicated they can provide a tracking service using the Inmarsat satellite network or existing aircraft communications systems, Graham said.