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Real-time tracking of aircraft

New Delhi, May 7: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today made it mandatory for all airlines in the country to track their planes, both passenger and cargo, on a real-time basis, a decision driven by the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines MH-370 with 239 people on board.

The civil aviation regulator also mandated that airlines must ensure that the necessary devices were functional before every take-off.

“In view of the difficulties faced in the search and rescue operations after an aircraft goes missing or meets with an accident, the DGCA has issued guidelines to all operators, in the form of the air safety circular, for real-time tracking of aircraft engaged in carrying passengers and cargo from departure to arrival,” DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar said.

Airlines have been asked to use onboard Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars) for tracking aircraft.

Those planes, which are not fitted with Acars, should carry out real-time tracking with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B), the safety circular said.

“They have to also ensure their serviceability before every departure. Operators have also been advised to devise a procedure for effective tracking of the aircraft while flying over areas where there is no coverage of Acars or the ADS-B,” Kumar said.

The rules specify that strict instructions be given to the crew not to switch off such equipment during a flight.

Acars is a message transmission system with which ground operations can send short messages to the aircraft via air-band radio or satellite.

The ADS-B helps the aircraft to determine its own position via satellite and periodically and automatically broadcast this through a radio frequency.

The International Air Transport Association has created a taskforce to make recommendations by the end of 2014 on how commercial aircraft can be tracked continuously. “We need to implement measures in the interim period with an objective of increasing the capability of all agencies involved with airline operations to effectively track their aircraft,” Kumar said.

 
 
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