Earlier this week, Australia said that it was testing a “world first” aircraft tracking system with Malaysia and Indonesia which will allow authorities to react quicker to incidents like the disappearance of MH370.
“In a world first, all three countries will trial a new method of tracking aircraft through the skies over remote oceanic areas,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters.
According to Truss, the system reportedly increases the minimum tracking rate for planes flying over remote oceans from 30 to 40 minutes to 15 minutes, and increases real time monitoring to 5 minutes or less if an “abnormal situation’ arises like major change in the plane’s direction. That would allow air traffic control to respond more quickly should a plane face difficulties or deviate significantly from its flight plan. The system is based on existing technology used on long-haul passenger aircraft.
The news came just shy of a year after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. The plane is still yet to be found, but experts have concluded that the plane traveled for several more hours before crashing somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Malaysia made a controversial decision in late January to officially declare MH370 an accident.
Airservices Australia chairman Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston was quoted as saying that the system was “a big step forward” and would make aircraft monitoring in oceanic areas much more effective.
“We will have a datum close to where the aircraft ran into trouble, which is in marked contrast to MH370 where the last known position was in the Malacca Strait,” said Houston, who helped lead the search for MH370.
However, he also cautioned that the new system would not necessarily have enabled air traffic controllers to monitor MH370 since it could simply have been turned off.
“I think we’ve got to be very, very careful because you can turn this system off,” he reportedly said. “What would have happened while the system is operating, we’d know exactly where the aircraft was. If somebody had turned the system off, we’re in the same set of circumstances as we’ve experienced on the latter part of the flight of MH370.”
The trial itself would begin at the air traffic services center in Brisbane and would then be extended to Melbourne and then on to Indonesia and Malaysia.