TWO years after a Malaysia Airlines jet went missing, the United Nations' aviation agency announced new rules to ensure that civilian aircraft in distress can be tracked almost in real time.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) said airlines must ensure that their planes are fitted with tracking devices that can independently transmit the location of the aircraft at least once a minute in case of an emergency.
This is to prevent a replay of incidents like the disappearance of Flight MH370, which presumably crashed into the Indian Ocean while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.
Despite an extensive search, it has still not been established where the plane ran into trouble and possibly crashed.
In another of the guidelines to be put in place between now and 2021, Icao said planes must also be equipped with systems and technology that are able to recover flight recorder data in "a timely manner".
It did not elaborate.
The recorder - part of a plane's black box - is critical in air crash investigations because it contains vital operational data such as flight time, altitude, speed and direction.
As part of Icao's new guidelines, the cockpit voice recorder, also part of the black box that captures conversations within the cockpit, must be able to run for 25 hours.
This is so that it covers all phases of a flight for all types of operations. The typical recording time now is two hours.
Icao council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said the developments are consistent with the findings and recommendations of a multi-disciplinary working group that was formed after the MH370 incident.
The requirements "will greatly contribute to aviation's ability to ensure that similar disappearances never occur again", he said.
The provisions are performance-based which means that airlines and aircraft manufacturers can consider all available and emerging technologies that can deliver the results.
Mr Aliu said: "Taken together, these new provisions will ensure that in the case of an accident, the location of the site will be known immediately to within six nautical miles, and that investigators will be able to access the aircraft's flight recorder data promptly and reliably."
They will also contribute to greatly improved and more cost-effective search and rescue operations, he added.
It is estimated that more than $150 million has already been spent on the search for MH370.
Apart from Icao's latest guidelines, airlines will have to ensure, possibly by 2018, that all flights are tracked at least every 15 minutes. For local carriers like Singapore Airlines, the rule kicks in on July 1.
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