Transportation subcommittee Chairman John Mica examines global flight tracking and recovery technologies
WASHINGTON—Approximately90,000 flights occur around the world each day and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that around 123,000 U.S. citizens are among the passengers on these planes. Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets examined international efforts to modernize tracking and recovery technologies on commercial airliners.
“It is unacceptable that today we are unable to locate or properly track commercial aircraft. It is our responsibility to ensure that no commercial airliner be allowed to fly without working an operable aircraft tracking device,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mica.
U.S. Representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization,
Ambassador Michael Lawson [full testimony]
“It is my hope that the United States will continue to apply its substantial expertise towards the development and maturation of global aircraft tracking standards, and that any new U.S. regulations will be harmonized with the international standards that emerge as the result of our collective efforts.”
*191 nations participate in ICAO and the United States provides 25% of funding
National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart [full testimony]
“Notwithstanding the NTSB’s nearly 50 years of aviation accident investigations and role
in securing improvements in recorder capabilities and locator technologies, the agency clearly
recognizes that sophisticated aircraft accident investigation and analysis cannot be accomplished
without recorded flight data. In order for our important work to continue and make a difference
in saving lives, we must ensure that the technologies are available to locate aircraft wreckage and
recorders after an accident and that critical flight data can be recovered.”
International Air Transport Association Senior Vice President Kevin Hiatt [full testimony]
“IATA and its member airlines recognize that commercial aviation is not sustainable if the public does not have confidence in the safety of the global air traffic system. The credibility of our industry is at risk when a modern commercial aircraft vanishes while under air traffic control and that, in the absence of facts, speculation defines the incident.”
– Most transoceanic airliners are equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS), however, air traffic control predominantly relies on ground-based radar to track aircraft, which limits tracking capabilities when aircraft travel beyond reach of land-based radars.
– Witnesses representing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the International Air Transport Association confirmed that improvements to technologies are underway but that more can certainly be done to better track aircraft.
– Right now, the international standard is to check in every 30 minutes when outside of radar. At 35,000 feet, a Boeing 747 has a cruising speed of 570 miles per hour. In 30 minutes, a plane carrying 400 passengers can travel nearly 300 miles before anyone realizes it’s off course.
Chairman Mica is interested in proposing legislation to hasten the approval and implementation process of ICAO’s proposed recommendations [referenced in the Ambassador’s testimony], by using U.S. influence to force all commercial aircraft landing on U.S. soil to have the minimum standards proposed by ICAO. ICAO estimates that it may take up to five years before all international commercial flights are tracked in real-time.