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Airservices steps up aircraft monitoring in Australian oceans

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 22, 2015

Airservices says it is now able to track all aircraft flying in Australian oceanic airspace every 14 minutes using Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Contract (ADS-C) technology, following a successful trial.

The monitoring of aircraft emerged as a huge international aviation issue following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 in March 2014. The Boeing 777-200ER was believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean west of Perth but search and rescue efforts have so far been unable to locate any sign of the aircraft.

In response to the tragedy, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has put forward a proposal that aircraft report their their location every 15 minutes.

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ICAO said in February the recommendation was “performance-based and not prescriptive”, meaning airlines would be able to use any available and planned technologies they believed was suitable to meet the 15-minute reporting standard.

Airservices said on June 19 its air traffic controllers were now able to monitor all aircraft in the oceans both to the east and west of Australia, making this country one of the first to meet the ICAO recommendation.

“This ensures that we have more accurate and timely information about flights in oceanic airspace where we are unable to track aircraft using traditional radar that relies on ground-based sites,” Airservices executive general manager for air traffic control Greg Hood said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with the international aviation community on long-term solutions to aircraft tracking in oceanic airspace, but in the meantime this trial allows our controllers to observe and react to any unusual flight behaviours and notify search and rescue agencies earlier if necessary.”

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In January, Airservices commenced a trial in partnership with Qantas, Virgin Australia and satellite provider Inmarsat to track aircraft of the two largest Australian carriers flying off the country’s east coast.

The trial was expand in April to cover all aircraft, with the coverage zone expanded to the oceanic areas off Australia’s west coast.

Airservices said it was now working with air navigation providers in the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The topic of aircraft tracking was also discussed at the recently concluded International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Miami.

IATA director of safety and flight operations Rudy Quevedo said there was broad support for aircraft tracking.

However, the decision on how to meet the ICAO recommendation was being left up to the individual airlines.

“Each airline is different and operates in a different context with a different type of fleet,” Quevedo told reporters during a media briefing at the AGM.

“So there is unfortunately no, as I like to call it, cookie-cutter solution, we have to treat each case and allow the airlines to choose its best option.”

“We realise that in a few years systems and technology will evolve to be able to track globally. However, it is important to maintain the immediate focus on leveraging the equipment already installed on aircraft and ensuring that all the stakeholders adhere to the standards that exist currently so that we can manage this problem effectively.”

The crash of Germanwings flight in March has also prompted the Lufthansa group to increase its tracking of aircraft to every five minutes when they were flying in areas without ground based tracking systems, from 15 minutes previously, Lufthansa group chief executive Carsten Sphor told delegates at the IATA AGM.

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4 Comments

  • Eric24

    says:

    Interesting that there is no indication of tracking to the north of Australia, which it seems is where the problem started.

    Just wondering if the tracking has legal implications pertaining to sovereign airspace over a neighbouring nations territory – ie, jurisdictional law.

  • Raymond

    says:

    And the elephant in the room question – can ADS-C be switched off?

    Also interesting that Lufthansa has increased reporting times to every 5 minutes from 15 minutes previously, therefore it seems Lufthansa deems 15 minute reporting intervals – the new ICAO recommendation – insufficient.

  • Elaine

    says:

    If it was so easily implemented then why hasn’t this policy been introduced earlier?
    Why do we have to wait until lives are lost before improving our aviation regulations?
    If you look closer a lot of aviation regulations are so last century.

    The fact that “2 in cockpit” rule has just recently been enforced is too late,
    and it’s not even prescriptive which means not compulsory on all airliners!!??

    Why can’t regulators be more proactive than reactive?

    Next security question – why aren’t name checks on domestic flights within Australia compulsory?
    and why isn’t the “Liquids, aerosols and gels 100mL restriction” applicable to domestic flights???

    so many questions to be answered

  • Raymond

    says:

    Elaine, all good questions.

    The ‘no name changes permitted’ on many tickets sold also seems quite pointless in effect, as name checking is not usually performed. At what stage is a person boarding with a ticket sold to ‘Joe Bloggs’ actually verified as that person?

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