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Tighten security and track flights to keep flying safe

April 3, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The mystery and tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 illustrates the need to improve in-flight tracking of passenger aircraft, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) contends.

“We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” says Tony Tyler, head of the airline industry trade body.

“MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight. 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 authorities are investigating what caused flight 250x250MH370 to vanish on 8 March 2014. Exhaustive searching has not produced a jot of evidence or any remnant of the plane, which many experts feel may never be located.

IATA urged governments and industry to focus on partnerships, data analysis and runway safety in the ongoing quest to make flying even safer.

Tyler also called on governments to:

  • Harmonize passenger data collected by airlines on the ICAO standard elements and eliminate all other non-standard requirements;
  • Eliminate the collection of passenger and cargo data using paper forms; and
  • Create a single harmonized window through which airlines can submit electronic data to governments.

“In 2013, there were over 29 million flights operated on Western-built jet aircraft, with 12 hull losses. That is one accident for every 2.4 million flights and a 14.6% improvement on the five-year industry average,” Tyler said.

“Accidents are rare, but the current search for MH370 is a reminder that we can never be complacent on safety. It may well a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight. But it is already clear that we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way. And it is equally clear that governments must make better use of the passenger data that they mandate airlines to provide,” said Tyler.

Effective data analysis is a driver of safety improvements, he said. Historically, the major thrusts for safety improvements have come through the well-established system of air accident investigations. Accident investigation will continue to play a key role in safety, but with fewer accidents, it becomes increasingly difficult to produce trend data which is so important to managing safety.

“By unlocking data from the millions of flights that land safely each year, we can get insights to drive safety improvements even further. This is just one example of the potential for data to underpin safety programs. The way forward is to collect data from as many information sources as possible, complemented with the well-developed analytical tools to unlock critical information,” Tyler said.

IATA has established the Global Aviation Data Management (GADM) project. GADM includes data from over 600 sources, making it the most comprehensive collection of industry information, including the STEADES database, audit data from the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations and the IATA Operational Safety Audit.

There are also contributions from many others, including the European Aviation Safety Authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“Together, industry and regulators are on the cusp of a great step forward in how we manage safety,” Tyler declared.

“We have talked about GADM for years. Now it is becoming a reality. We need as many stakeholders as possible to contribute their data. An increase in the number of users of the data will transform GADM from insight to real safety improvements,” said Tyler.

Focussing specifically on the missing flight MH370, Tyler said speculation would not make flying any safer.

“We should not jump to any conclusions on probable cause before the investigation into MH370 closes. There are, however, at least two areas of process – aircraft tracking and passenger data – where there are clearly challenges that need to be overcome.”

MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight.

“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. Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago and some progress was made. But that must be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” Tyler said.

“In our eagerness to move this along, we must also ensure that prudent decisions are made in line with global standards. This is not the time for hastily prepared sales pitches or regional solutions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) process is the way to move this forward. I have no doubt that governments are eager to come to a conclusion and take action as soon as possible.”

On passenger data, Tyler said: “It is important to remember that airlines are not border guards or policemen. The checking of passports is the well-established responsibility of governments. The industry goes to great effort and expense to ensure that governments have reliable information about passengers before an aircraft takes off (Advance Passenger Information or API).

“Governments need to review their processes for vetting and using this data, such as Interpol’s stolen and lost passport database. This information is critical and it must be used effectively. 

Edited by : Peter Needham

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