MIAMI — Much of the buzz at this week’s IATA Annual General Meeting came from discussions surrounding aircraft tracking and the fallout of MH370’s disappearance. A session was held specifically to allow Kevin Hiatt, Chairman of the Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF) steering committee to address the media and field questions. And Hiatt offered up guidance as to where we can expect the group’s recommendations to end up. This was interesting as much for what was included as what was not.

There have been discussions about various companies offering up their services to the industry – Inmarsat got the most press for their offer to ICAO recently – but no conclusions have been drawn yet. Indeed, more than 30 vendors have been approved to present their technologies to the ATTF in the coming months. At the same time, Hiatt’s comments this week suggest that the ATTF is not going to pick a vendor and mandate its usage by airlines or airframers.

The task force will not come out with a prescriptive outcome that will say ‘though shalt.’ We will come up with options that will be available to the air carrier and the OEM. One size may not fit all.

To say to an aircraft manufacturer, ‘you will put this device on your aircraft,’ that is not our intention.

Hiatt was also quite clear that IATA does not yet know how many of the 100,000 daily flights (or the aircraft which may operate them) would be affected by the group’s recommendations. It is clear that the ATTF does not expect to require tracking capabilities if the plane never leaves radar-coverage areas, but when asked to name a number the response was evasive, “Without getting into a specific percentage number – which we will definitely have – these are the things I’m depending on the experts to feed back to the task force.”

With just three months to evaluate the technologies available (30+ vendors have already been approved to present options) and produce a set of draft recommendations the ATTF faces many challenges. Following their progress in the coming months will be an interesting exercise.