MH370: Better tracking for commercial planes planned in trial

Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia are leading the new pilot

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The Independent Online

Countries involved in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 are to lead a trial to improve the tracking of aircraft in remote ocean locations.

Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia will embark on the pilot programme to ensure planes are easier to find should they vanish, like Flight 370 on 8 March last year.

The announcement comes a week ahead of the anniversary of the plane’s disappearance, while it was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The aircraft has still not been found.

Airservices Australia, the government-owned airspace agency, is to work with its Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts to test a new tracking system, which would allow planes to be monitored every 15 minutes, compared to the current rate of 30 to 40 minutes, Warren Truss, the Australian transport minister said.

Tracking would increase to once every five minutes, or fewer, should there be a deviation in the aircraft’s movements.


The plans involve using satellite-based positioning technology that is already on board 90 per cent of long-haul aircraft. It will allow the plane’s current and next two planned positions to be transmitted.

It will increase the frequency of aircraft automatically reporting their positions, allowing air traffic controllers to more easily monitor them, Airservices Australia chairman Angus Houston, who helped lead the search for Flight 370, said.

“This is not a silver bullet,” he said. “But it is an important step in delivering immediate improvements to the way we currently track aircraft while more comprehensive solutions are developed.”

Currently, there is no requirement for real-time tracking of commercial jets, but since the disappearance of Flight 370 regulators and airlines have been attempting to decide how frequently planes should be monitored.

Flight 370 made an abrupt turn off-course and vanished from radar shortly into its flight. Experts believe that plane continued to fly for seven hours before crashing in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

The new trial method would not necessarily have let air traffic controllers monitor the stricken Maylaysia Airlines plane, however.

“I think we've got to be very, very careful because you can turn this system off,” Mr Houston said.

“What would have happened while the system is operating, we'd know exactly where the aircraft was. If somebody had turned the system off, we're in the same set of circumstances as we've experienced on the latter part of the flight of MH370.”