Malaysia’s missing jet tragedy illustrates the need to improve in-flight tracking of passenger aircraft, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) says, adding: “We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish.
“MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight,” Tony Tyler, head of the airline industry trade body, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover.”
Tyler’s statement was released at an IATA conference in Kuala Lumpur, where baffled authorities are investigating what caused Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 to disappear on March 8.
The Boeing 777 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Malaysian authorities believe the flight was deliberately diverted by someone on board, flew for hours in the wrong direction, and was last detected by a satellite in the remote Indian Ocean.
“We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” Tyler said.
Aviation experts say the MH370 mystery could prompt major change in the industry, particularly in improving the tracking of aircraft even if they slip off civilian radar and their automated signalling systems are disabled.
Malaysia says the missing jet’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and its transponder cut out at around the time it disappeared from radar.
The systems relay information about the plane and its location.
Tyler also said governments must make better use of information sources like Interpol’s lost or stolen passports database.
Two of the passengers on the missing plane were travelling on stolen passports, which raised early fears of a terrorist attack. But Interpol has since said the Iranian pair were merely illegal immigrants.
Malaysia drew criticism when it emerged that none of the passengers’ passports were checked against the Interpol database before boarding. Kuala Lumpur hit back by saying such checks were too time-consuming for immigration officers and could cause excessive delays at airports.
Tyler said the checking of passports was “the well-established responsibility of governments”.
“It is important to remember that airlines are not border guards or policemen,” he said.
“This information is critical and must be used effectively.”
A multination search is under way for wreckage from MH370 in the Indian Ocean. It is ultimately hoped that the plane’s “black box”, with its flight data and cockpit voice recorders, can be recovered to provide clues on what happened.