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    Mar 02, 2015

    Aussies test new way to track aircraft


    AUSTRALIA yesterday said it was testing a "world first" system with Malaysia and Indonesia that boosts the tracking of aircraft over remote oceans, allowing the authorities to quickly react to abnormal situations such as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

    It increases the minimum tracking rate for planes flying over remote oceans to 15 minutes, from current intervals of 30 to 40 minutes.

    The technology "can increase real-time monitoring should an abnormal situation arise", said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

    "In a world first, all three countries will trial a new method of tracking aircraft through the skies over remote oceanic areas," Mr Truss told reporters.

    "This initiative adapts existing technology used by more than 90 per cent of long-haul passenger aircraft and would see air traffic control able to respond more rapidly should an aircraft experience difficulty or deviation from its flight plan."

    The announcement comes almost a year after Flight MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing last March, with 239 people on board.

    A massive air and underwater search failed to find any evidence of the plane.

    While the system was "not a silver bullet", it would help to improve current methods of tracking ahead of other solutions being developed, said Airservices Australia chairman Angus Houston.

    If an aircraft deviates more than 200ft from its assigned level or 2 nautical miles from its expected track, the system would automatically monitor the jet more closely, such as every five minutes or almost continuously, he added.

    "This is a big step forward. It's not just changing things, it's going to make, I think, the monitoring of aircraft over these oceanic areas much more effective," said the head of the air traffic control body. "We will have a datum close to where the aircraft ran into trouble, which is in marked contrast to MH370 where the last known position was in the Malacca Straits."

    The trial, using automatic dependent surveillance contract technology, will commence at the air traffic services centre in the eastern city of Brisbane before being extended to Melbourne, in the country's south, and to Indonesia and Malaysia.

    Long-haul jets that use the existing technology include wide-bodied planes such as Boeing's 777 model, Mr Truss said.

    Malaysia will give its utmost support to the tracking system, said the country's Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai.

    "We have to continue to improve the international aviation safety area because we know, after what happened to flights MH17 and MH370, it opened up to the world that the aviation sector needs to further strengthen safety areas," he said.