Posted by : Des Ross Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A working group established after the loss of MH370 and headed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has released a paper, ‘Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System’ (GADSS) describing their concept for future aircraft tracking and emergency alerting.

With the recent loss of QZ8501 on 28th December 2014, the problems of quickly locating a downed aircraft are again being highlighted and this us addressed in these initiatives from the working group.

Everyone must understand that this is a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) that will be introduced systematically on a global basis.  It will take time for all nations to introduce the systems into aircraft under their control and for ground based air traffic centres to be able to establish the necessary procedures and systems.

This GADSS will not prevent an accident from occurring but it is intended to improve the way in which aircraft are tracked and then located when they have an emergency or an  event which results in a crash.

It is intended to dramatically improve the time taken to locate a downed aircraft and, therefore to improve the chances of rescuing survivors.

It will also enable a more rapid recovery of the Flight Data (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), commonly known as the “black boxes”, which are essential to fully investigate and understand the cause of any accident.  These recorders capture all vital system data about the flight and exactly what the flight crew were saying and doing in the two hour period leading up to the time of the accident. 

It is a major weakness in the current safety system that this critical information is currently held within the recorders on board the aircraft making it essential for the recorders to be recovered and analysed.

Why is that so?  The technology certainly exists to allow all the recorded data to be downloaded to a ground based station in real time so that the accident can be analysed even if the recorders cannot be recovered quickly.  However, there are concerns over the  cost of handling, and analysing large amounts of data being streamed by thousands of commercial flights on a daily basis.  It cannot be implemented immediately but will undoubtedly be possible in the near future.

Streaming of the data may not be able to avoid an incident which results in a crash, but it will certainly assist by informing operations centres on the ground of the last known position of the aircraft to facilitate any search that is needed and, of great importance, it will provide information on exactly why the aircraft did crash so that lessons can be learnt to avoid such an event from repeating.

Meanwhile, some military technology could be used by which all large airline aircraft will be required to fit “deployable” Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT’s) and Data Recorders. Military aircraft currently have this capability and the concept is simply that the equipment will detach from the aircraft if it is in an emergency situation and is going to crash.  The ELT and recorder will be able to float on the surface of the ocean or be on the ground but separate from the main crash site, so that it can be tracked and located by search aircraft.
ICAO is the peak international body which determines Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for international implementation.  However, it is an office within the United Nations and it has no power to actually enforce these SARPs in Member States areas of jurisdiction.

Therefore, the GADSS will need to be translated into laws, rules and regulations, by each individual country engaged in international civil aviation, so that these laws will apply to aircraft and air navigation service providers which operate within their national jurisdiction. 
This must be done to ensure that all aircraft being used by fare paying passengers will comply and fit the equipment needed.  Otherwise it is likely that some airlines will avoid the expense of doing so. Herein lies a part of the problem.  It should not be a surprise to know that there are currently some airlines that do not closely follow all international laws, rules and reglations, and, predictably, these airlines are mainly in the developing nations of the World.

A simple Google search for “List of Airlines banned by EU” will provide an indication of the difficulties faced by ICAO and the international community in assessing the operational safety of airlines.  You should note that this list is not always saying that an individual airline is known to be unsafe but rather that the regulatory authority within that country is not doing its job well enough for the EU to have confidence in its ability to ensure that these airlines are operationally up to international standards of safety.

This will become an issue in the introduction of the GADSS over the next years, and it would not be surprising to see a tiered system in place whereby the top world airlines implement GADSS and others drag their feet. This also may in time become a consideration for Civil Aviation Authorities to introduce new bans for non complying airlines from their airspace.

Aviation Project Delivery

We specialise in the design, management and delivery of complex aviation projects. We have successfully delivered major aviation developments for the European Union, ICAO, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Adam Smith International, PNG Government, Pacific Aviation Safety Office, Airports Vanuatu Limited, The Asian Development Bank, and the Indian Director General of Civil Aviation

Aviation Recuitment Services

We are experts in recruitment services for the Aviation Industry in management, operations and aviation security (AVSEC).

Public speaking

We have Aviation and Travel experts in our team who will will appear as speakers at your conference or event. Subjects include Aviation mishaps, The difficulties faced in working in remote areas, and much more. Contact us for more details, we can tailor the talk to your needs.

Coming Soon

Safety and local information briefings for staff to visit, or be based in, countries in Africa, Asia or the Pacific.

- Copyright © Desmond Ross and Associates - Designed by ffp -