After Air France flight 447 was lost in the Atlantic in 2009 the industry debated what it should do to ensure that never again would an aircraft’s oceanic position be so ill-defined that it takes two years to find the wreckage. But nothing actually happened.

This time, since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing without trace in March 2014, ICAO has assembled a team to decide what could, practically, be done. The consensus is that airlines are free to choose their own technology, but they must install a system that provides a position report every 15min.

That’s not good enough on its own, as an oceanic search area could still have a 100nm (185km) circle of radius, which represents a formidable search task if the sea is deep. Either the position updates should be every 5min, or there must be additional location clues, like deployable emergency locator transmitters/flight data recorders, or a system for transmitting comprehensive data back to base when a distress situation triggers the communications link. ICAO is still working on these.

The other consensus ICAO has led, triggered by the shootdown of MH17, is a system for sharing intelligence with airlines about risk levels in specific conflict zone airspace. Much of the information will have to be used with caution, because conflicts tend to corrupt intelligence, but that’s no reason to drop the idea. Any intelligence shared is better than none.

Source: Flight International