December 10, 2014
EU Commission looks like going solo in attempt to introduce mandatory flight tracking
The total disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH70 in March saw many people asking how, in this day and age of high technology and the ability to track virtually anything, an airplane of such magnitude could disappear without trace. The clear public discomfort at such an event saw the re-emergence of ideas proposed but postponed subsequent to the disappearance over the Atlantic in 2009 of Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Efforts by global regulators and the airline industry to agree on a system to successfully track aircraft have not got as far as hoped and despite asking for more time to progress matters, the EU is considering plans to impose flight-tracking on a unilateral basis instead.
As always, the biggest complaint from the airlines is cost which, if a tracking system is made mandatory solely on European airlines, will see them struggle to remain competitive. More wide-ranging talks are being held by the UN’s ICAO who, in May, had agreed to the need for global tracking. Airlines are trying to persuade the EU Commission to await their conclusions, while also trying to steer the Commission in the direction of utilising existing and available technology, as opposed to a installing a totally new and more costly system. In a letter to the European Commission, the Association of European Airlines pointed out that a new system “would be disproportionate to its added value,” based on a summary of the contents provided to airline chiefs.
It is anticipated that EU officials and Airlines will meet later this week to try to defuse the row, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the dispute regarding unilateral EU action on climate measures. At this stage there is also discussions going on regarding the possibility of governments meeting part of the costs, while regulators do point out that anything which would help with the location of a downed plane will have great implications on future aircraft safety.