News / Asia

    Airlines Slow to Adopt Safety Technologies After MH370

    FILE - The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, Oct. 13, 2015.
    FILE - The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, Oct. 13, 2015.
    Associated Press

    Airline-safety standards are changing in the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly two years ago, but the head of one of the world's top air crash investigation agencies says it's not happening fast enough.

    On Wednesday, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency that sets global aviation standards, moved to address some of the more glaring safety gaps. Planes in "distress'' will have to automatically report their position and other critical information at least every minute to help searchers find the wreckage. But the requirement will only apply to planes built six years from now or later.
    It could take even longer to implement another ICAO change requiring new planes have a reliable means to recover information stored in `"black box'' data and cockpit voice recorders, rather than scouring the ocean floor for the boxes. Several existing technologies could do that, but ICAO's timeline means it could be a decade or more before planes equipped with those technologies begin entering service.
    Chris Hart, chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, told The Associated Press that more should be done to put available technologies to use quickly.
    "We are concerned about the slow pace of progress at both the national and international levels," Hart said. "We believe this is long overdue."
    Here's a look at what has changed, what has not and what is in the works.
    Flight tracking
    As a result of MH370, ICAO has approved a requirement that all airliners report their position about every 15 minutes over open ocean by November 2018. Pilots of planes flying over open ocean have typically reported their position about every 30 minutes.
    Inmarsat, a provider of satellite flight tracking services, has offered free tracking to all long-haul carriers. But there are gaps in Inmarsat's coverage of the globe.
    Another aircraft-tracking provider, Aireon LLC, has partnered with Iridium Communications, which has a network of 66 low-orbit satellites, and says it plans to offer flight tracking of virtually all of the world's airspace beginning in 2018. In order to use the system, planes must be equipped with special satellite communications technology known as ADS-B.
    Besides flight tracking, ADS-B can be used to prevent collisions and allow planes to fly closer together. Aircraft manufacturers are already including the technology in new planes, but airlines are still in the process of equipping older planes, which is expensive.
    The United States has set a deadline of 2020 for airlines operating in its airspace to equip their planes. There is no international deadline.
    Finding wreckage
    Flight tracking is helpful, but may not narrow a search area enough to reliably find a plane. Instead, aviation officials want planes to automatically send out position reports at least once per minute when they are trouble.
    At normal flight speeds, minute-by-minute reports would provide authorities with a search area of a little over 100 square miles. If reports are less frequent, the search area grows much larger.
    ICAO's newly adopted requirement for automatic, minute-by-minute reports by planes in distress applies only to planes made after Jan. 1, 2021.
    Many planes are already equipped to send periodic short automatic messages to ground stations via VFR radio or satellite using a digital datalink system. In 2009, a burst of such brief messages from Air France flight 447 provided searchers enough information to find wreckage from the plane just days after it disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. However, it still took two years before the plane's black boxes were recovered.
    In the case of MH370, the Boeing 777 was also equipped with the technology to send such messages, but the service wasn't in use. Airlines typically use the systems to relay information on how the plane and its engines are functioning so that maintenance personnel and equipment can be positioned at its next destination if needed.
    Flight recorders

    MH370's flight data recorder was equipped with an underwater locator beacon designed to last 30 days. ICAO standards adopted before the plane's disappearance require the beacons to last 90 days beginning in 2018.
    This week, ICAO approved a requirement that new aircraft designs approved after Jan. 1, 2021, have some means for retrieving a plane's recorders, or the information contained in them, before the recorder sinks to the ocean floor. One possibility is a deployable recorder that automatically ejects from a plane upon impact and floats to the ocean's surface. They're widely used in military aircraft, but Boeing says cases where they'll be needed are likely to be fewer than instances in which they accidently deploy, potentially causing injuries and property damage.
    An alternative is to have planes in distress automatically relay the data via satellite to ground stations, eliminating the need to search for the box. But there are many unanswered questions about security and custody of the information.
    Even then, it might be 2028 or later before planes with either deployable recorders or a means to transmit the recorder's data before a crash enter service because of the time lag between the approval of new plane designs and when they are ready to fly.
    The new requirements don't include cockpit voice recordings. MH370 contained a two-hour voice recorder that recorded in a continuous loop. Even if the recorder is ever found, it is likely that critical information from early in the flight was erased.
    ICAO also adopted a standard this week requiring planes manufactured after Jan. 1, 2021, to include 25-hour voice recorders to capture an entire flight, as well as crew preparations beforehand. The requirement doesn't apply to planes already in service, which can have lifespans of 20 years or more.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora