Taskforce to review thorny issue of continuous aircraft tracking

Chief of global airline body says ‘cannot let another aircraft simply vanish’

 A view from the Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream V aircraft  on route today to the search zone for debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean. Photograph:  Paul Kane/Pool/Getty Images

A view from the Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream V aircraft on route today to the search zone for debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean. Photograph: Paul Kane/Pool/Getty Images

 

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 highlights the need for security improvements in tracking aircraft and also screening passengers before they board planes, the International Air Transport Association has said.

The global airline body announced it is creating a taskforce that will make recommendations by the end of the year on how commercial aircraft can be tracked continuously.

“We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” said Tony Tyler, the director general of IATA, whose 240 member airlines carry 84 per cent of passengers and cargo worldwide.

“In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear,” Mr Tyler said. “Accidents are rare, but the current search for 370 is a reminder that we cannot be complacent on safety.”

The three-week hunt for Flight 370 has turned up no sign of the Boeing 777, which vanished on March 8th with 239 people on board bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

A multinational team of aircraft and ships is searching a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean but say they have no idea where the plane might have gone down hours after it vanished from radar.

Mr Tyler called on governments to step up the use of passenger databases such as the one operated by Interpol to determine whether a passport has been stolen. Interpol has a database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents, but most countries including Malaysia do not run passports through the computer system.

“Airlines are neither border guards nor policemen. That is the well-established responsibility of governments,” Mr Tyler said. “The information is critical and must be used effectively.”

Last week, Interpol rejected comments from a Malaysian minister that it takes too much time and is too difficult to check the agency’s database.

The police agency said in a statement that it “takes just seconds” to reveal whether a passport is listed on its database, which is regularly used by the US, Singapore and other countries.

The presence of two men using stolen passports on the Malaysia Airlines flight had raised speculation of a possible terrorist link, but it is now thought they were just asylum-seekers attempting to get to Europe. Nonetheless, their easy access to the flight “rings alarm bells”, Mr Tyler said.

IATA said more than three billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights last year. There were 81 incidents, 16 which were fatal, with 210 deaths.

Press Association