Reports/The Operational Search for MH370/Safety Actions ICAO

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Safety actions

The key developments related to aircraft search in recent years are summarised here, and it is likely that other organisations have implemented additional local safety measures. It should be noted that the pace of change in aviation can be slow, especially when changes are far reaching. In addition to the time taken to determine and agree on the best approaches at an international level, it is necessary to provide state regulators, manufacturers and operators time to prepare and implement them.


International Civil Aviation Organization

In recent years, ICAO have convened several working groups and meetings to discuss issues related to aircraft tracking and search activities. Some are ongoing at the time of writing, with the following changes to ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices implemented from 2014 through 2016:

  • Annex 6 Amendments 38 and 40-A introduced provisions for automatic deployable flight recorders (ADFR). These are deployable, buoyant flight data recorders that have an integrated ELT instead of a ULB.
  • Annex 6 Amendment 38 also requires recorder-mounted ULBs to have increased battery life of 90 days from 1 January 2018. From the same date, most large aircraft operated on remote oceanic routes are to be equipped with an additional airframe-mounted, long-range, 30-day ULB to supplement those fitted to the flight recorders.
  • Annex 6 Amendment 40-A also introduced requirements for responding to distress alerts, and clarifications related to the use of emergency location equipment. Complementary to Amendment 40-A, ICAO Document 10054, Manual on Location of Aircraft in Distress and Flight Recorder Data Recovery is in development at the time of writing.

Annex 6 Amendment 39 specified aircraft to be fitted with tracking equipment from 8 November 2018, with 15-minute tracking intervals (recommended for all commercial aircraft over 27 t and mandated for aircraft over 45.5 t 35 ). This interval is to be decreased to every minute for an aircraft in distress 36 , for aircraft certified after 1 January 2021 (recommended for new aircraft designs over 5.7 t and mandated for aircraft over 27 t). This is to provide ‘a high probability of locating an accident site to within a 6 NM radius’. In recent years the two largest regulators of aircraft manufacturers, EASA and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), implemented similar new rules governing the fitment and specification of ULBs.



On 12 May 2014 Inmarsat announced the proactive provision of free ADS position reporting at 15-minute intervals to all aircraft equipped with its Classic Aero system (the system installed on MH370) which represents most long-haul commercial aircraft. Inmarsat’s more recent Swift Broadband service, which has been operational for over five years and is currently installed on more than 1,000 commercial passenger aircraft, automatically records the location of all aircraft in flight every two minutes for system optimisation purposes at no cost.


Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines plans to implement satellite-based ADS-B data monitoring and automated alerting to its existing fleet when the Aireon satellite constellation is operational in 2018. It was reported that this will not require the installation of any new equipment and will be capable of minute-by-minute reporting (Aireon 2017).


Airservices Australia

Among many other air traffic services providers worldwide, Airservices Australia have implemented a satellite ADS-C service. This enables aircraft to be tracked at 14-minute intervals in Australian airspace. According to Airservices Australia, controllers can now observe and react to any unusual flight behaviour and notify SAR agencies sooner. In the event of an abnormal situation, the reporting rate automatically increases to every five minutes. Air traffic controllers are also able to set the rate to near real-time for individual aircraft if required.


Joint committee

In 2013 the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) and European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) convened a joint committee (SC-229 and WG 98) to update standards addressing the latest design, performance, installation and operational issues for 406 MHz emergency beacons. In part, the committees’ scope includes the study of in-flight triggering and crashworthiness (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics 2016).

Source: The Operational Search for MH370, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 3 October 2017

Extracts from The Operational Search for MH370 have been included here for reference purposes, particularly the sections which relate to the history of the flight; times and events; the aircraft's satellite data unit (SDU); and the Pilot in Command’s flight simulator.