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ICAO Conference Approves Aircraft Tracking Standard

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) brought together aviation experts and strategic decision makers for a four-day conference ending February 5 that discussed emerging safety issues such as global tracking of aircraft and risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones.

At the conference, ICAO member states recommended adoption of a new 15-minute aircraft tracking standard. The recommended standard is performance-based and not prescriptive, meaning that global airlines would be able to meet it using the available and planned technologies and procedures they deem suitable.

“This new standard will be an important first step in providing a foundation for global flight tracking and the future implementation of the more comprehensive ICAO Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS),” said ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. “Through an expedited process, it will now be sent to our member states before the end of the month for formal comment and we’re anticipating its adoption by council as early as this fall.”

The concept of operations for the GADSS was developed by ICAO in 2014, subsequent to the disappearance of flight MH370 and the special Multidisciplinary Meeting on Global Flight Tracking which ICAO convened soon after. It calls for a three-tiered approach for global aircraft tracking over the long-term, covering normal, abnormal and distress conditions.

ICAO member states also confirmed their support for the organization’s comprehensive conflict zone risk mitigation work program, including a proposal to develop a prototype online resource for global conflict zone risk information.

“Under the Chicago Convention, each state is responsible for assessing civil aviation conflict zone risks in their territories, and for making that information promptly available to other states and airlines,” Aliu said. “The Task Force we convened after the loss of MH17 identified that both states and airlines could benefit from greater information sharing on conflict zones, including risks assessments for a given conflict area, and that a centralized online resource could help facilitate the exchange of information needed to achieve that objective.”

"This prototype online database was one of the more important aspects of the overall risk mitigation strategy proposed by the Conflict Zone Task Force,” said ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin. “The intention is for this central repository to be hosted by ICAO and to serve as a single source for up-to-date risk assessments from states and relevant international organizations. Importantly, it would also link all risk assessment data presented with the state or organization which provided it, and a suitable legal framework would be established to ensure that ICAOwould not face liability implications arising from the information which states and agencies submit.”

Other priorities of the conflict zone work program which were supported by the conference include the harmonization of terminology used for risk assessments, a comprehensive review of existing requirements and message formats, and industry led-initiatives to share operational information and be more transparent with passengers on conflict zone risk methodologies being applied.

Additional topics on the agenda included Ebola management, and search and rescue practices.

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