Doha, Jan 7: Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the Gulf country, plans to roll out planes equipped with an automatic aircraft tracking system as early as this year, a move that will help prevent aviation accidents such as the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Qatar Airways is already testing a new automatic aircraft tracking technology that will continuously send flight data from the aircraft black box to the operations centre.
"We are working closely with them (the supplier of the technology) testing a system whereby all the flight data that is being recorded in the black box is also received continuously during the flight on the ground in our operations center," Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO Qatar Airways told reporters at a press conference at the Doha International Airport today.
"We hope that we will start fitting the tracking system into our airplanes from this year after it has successfully passed the tests we are doing," he said.
The disappearance of MH370 on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board had sparked a debate on the need for better aircraft tracking. Qatar Airways did not provide details about how much such a tracking technology would cost or who the supplier of the technology is.
Baker who sits on the board of governors of International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the members are are very aggressively pursuing the subject of automatic tracking of airplanes.
"In the past, airlines never had traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS ) and IATA put a lot of pressure on regulators to insist that all aircraft be equipped with TCAS after the accident in New Delhi between two aircraft which had mid-air collision," Baker said.
"The same has now happened after the Malaysia Airlines mishap. We as members on the board of governors (IATA) are insisting that now it should become mandatory that aircraft should be able to be automatically tracked from the time it takes off until the time it lands," he said.
Baker was referring to the Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision which occurred on November 12, 1996 over the village of Charkhi Dadri, to the west of New Delhi.
The aircraft involved were a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-100B en route from Delhi to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin II-76 en route from Chimkent, Kazakhstan, to Delhi.
The crash killed all 349 people on board both planes, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision, and also the deadliest aviation accident to occur in India.