MIAMI — One man’s slow is another’s deliberate. Perhaps that is the best way to explain the aviation industry’s progress towards establishing standards for flight tracking and monitoring in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappearance 15 months ago.
This year’s IATA Annual General Meeting had plenty of discussion on the topic, though the tone varied significantly based on who was speaking and their role in the industry. IATA CEO Tony Tyler reminded the group in his State of the Industry speech that IATA is cooperating with and supporting ICAO in the latter’s efforts to establish a global standard, the most recent iteration of which includes a 15-minute positional tracking metric.
ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu addressed the IATA gathering, speaking to the plans as well and noting that he expects adoption globally later this year. And Rodolfo (Rudy) Quevedo, IATA Director of Safety, added recognition for the challenges of deploying such a standard on a global scale, “The difficulty is understanding that each airline is different. There is no cookie-cutter solution.”
This deliberate (or slow) progress by regulatory groups has not stopped some airlines from moving a bit more quickly on the topic. During the CEO panel discussion Lufthansa, TAM Airlines, Etihad Airways and Malaysia Airlines all noted that they are tracking their aircraft on a regular basis, though the spread in timing still exists. MAS CEO Christoph Mueller noted that his company “[W]aits for an industry solution” but that his group has initiated tracking pending such standards.
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr shared that his company is monitoring its fleet with positional reports every five minutes, but he’s not happy with the financial implications of that decision. “We went from 15 minutes to five minutes outside of fully radar-controlled airspace. But it is a costly thing which we are spending too much money on at this point. The industry needs a cheaper solution but after the accidents we decided to invest the money,” he said Etihad and TAM both indicated that their long-haul fleet are being tracked every 30 minutes today.
Tyler made it clear that he believes the industry must be deliberate rather than rushing to act. “The industry has become as safe as it is because people have been careful to make proper safety decisions before regulating,” he said.
Some may find this answer insufficient, but the airlines are not all waiting for the rules to be set to act. Many have moved already and many more will, even before the proposed November 2015 efficacy or November 2016 deployment completion target.