Reinstilling trust in the aviation industry: New tracking system will help ensure no more MH370 mysteries

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 November, 2015, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 November, 2015, 1:37pm

Trust in the safety and security of passenger aircraft is the bedrock of the commercial aviation industry. The continuing mystery of what became of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared 20 months ago while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, therefore continues to be a troublesome matter. As long as the plane's fate and why it vanished from radar screens remains unknown, a measure of confidence will be lacking among travellers. The new satellite tracking system agreed by more than 160 UN countries aims to reassure despite the paucity of answers.

READ MORE: Global flight-tracking satellites deal signal an end to mysterious missing planes like MH370

Part of a wing found washed up on a beach on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion all but confirmed the Boeing 777 crashed into the sea. But that was four months ago and no further wreckage has been located; search crews still have nothing to show for the tens of millions of dollars provided for their efforts. Even if they find the bulkhead, we may never know why the jetliner veered off course. The tracking system will not provide such answers, but through its mandatory installation on all passenger planes, the possibility of them going missing for so long will be prevented.

From November next year, planes will have to send their positions during flights to satellites every 15 minutes. With the entire world having satellite coverage, that will ensure their location can be known at any given time to within a few hundred kilometres. That is a significant step up from the ground-based radar tracking method most airlines use, which works well over densely-populated areas, but leaves massive gaps where there are no stations, such as over open waters. Many planes are already fitted with the technology and improvements will mean more frequent tracking should the craft unexpectedly change route or move unusually. Disabling the system would be impossible.

That is no comfort for the relatives of those missing on Flight MH370, who still do not have the findings that will help bring closure. For travellers, though, there will be added safety with the chances of rescue being substantially heightened should there be a mishap. High standards of air safety are due to lessons being learned from every accident and the information being used to improve flight operations, regulations and technology. About 100,000 planes take off and land without incident every day; when the new rules take effect, the chances of something going wrong will be even lower.