EU to impose compulsory flight tracking after MH370 disappearance

The Malaysian airliner known as MH370. France, 2011. [Wikimedia]

The European Union is pursuing plans to impose mandatory flight-tracking in response to the disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner, but will not mandate a specific interval for position updates.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 people on board, in March 2014 sparked efforts by global regulators and the airline industry to agree on systems to track planes, reviving a recommendation from French investigators after the crash of an Air France jet in the Atlantic in 2009.

The United Nations’ aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), has set a deadline for November 2016 for airlines to install tracking technology.

The executive arm of the EU, the European Commission, is set to approve plans to mandate flight tracking from take-off to landing on new aircraft from 2018, without specifying an interval for position updates.

>>Read: EU mulls introducing flight-tracking unilaterally

ICAO, on the other hand, would require aircraft to provide position information every 15 minutes when over ocean or remote areas.

EU member states signed off on the new measures in July and the European Parliament has until Oct. 27 to raise any objections, a Commission spokesman said.

Once the deadline has passed the regulation will be formally adopted and airlines will have three years to install tracking devices. However, existing aircraft without the technology will not have to be retrofitted.

Technical details for the tracking technology, such as the position update intervals, will be prepared later by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), two EU officials said.

Sources say EASA is leaning towards a three minute interval.

The EU is also trying to pushing within ICAO for the UN body to drop its 15-minute interval since it prefers a more flexible approach, said one of the EU officials.

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