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International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) set to ratify aircraft tracking rule

Measure could set a new gold standard for aviation safety globally but faces stiff opposition from airlines.

1 February 2015, Oxford, United Kingdom – All commercial flights worldwide could be required to send out an automated signal every minute in times of distress to help rescuers find downed aircraft more easily.

The measure is in response to last year’s disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The aircraft, with 239 people on board, has never been found and remains on of the great aviation mysteries of modern times.

The new rule, formulated by ICAO’s Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on Aircraft Tracking is contained within a draft report on the high-level requirements and concept of operations for the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS), which the United Nations (UN) agency is expected to finalise at a meeting being held this coming week.

“It will come as a surprise to many that in this day and age airlines are still relying on age old technology to track the whereabouts of aircraft in their fleets. All commercial aircraft will eventually have to stream live-status data directly to operation control centres, offering real-time situational awareness that is all but nonexistent today,” says Abdou Attou, Founder & CEO of Wisscom Aerospace.

Wisscom Aerospace is a leading connectivity data driven software company based in Oxford, England, delivering solutions aimed of reducing the reliance placed on airborne systems in the event of a crash.

SmartTrack® is a real time tracking platform, which captures Global Positioning System (GPS) data for every aircraft in the fleet and sends this directly to the airline’s ground based servers. SmartTrack® thus provides low cost access to up-to-the-minute aircraft location by smart and efficient use of the connectivity on board the aircraft.

CloudBox® delivers a real time Cockpit Voice Recording (CVR) capability as well as partial Flight Data Recorder (FDR) ability to aircraft that may be in distress. Activated by remote instruction or simple cockpit voice command, Cloudbox® enables an instantaneous dump to ground of all voice traffic
emanating from the cockpit, as well as vital data including aircraft position, altitude, speed, wind speed and atmospheric pressure.

The Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on Aircraft Tracking initiative will be presented to delegates from all 191 ICAO member states at a meeting in Montreal scheduled 2 February – 5 February 2015.

It has unanimous support amongst ICAO Member States, and the ICAO Council will ratify a final proposal within six months.

However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents over 200 airlines across the globe, refused to back a call to install existing systems on its planes within twelve months when it met in December.

“We believe that a strong business case exists for installation of systems such as SmartTrack® and CloudBox®, since the technology provides a cost effective approach to meeting the international requirement for a robust aircraft tracking capability,” concludes Mr. Attou.

Improved tracking capability has been on the wish list since Air France flight 447 went missing over the Atlantic Ocean on 2009 and received fresh impetus with the more recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March 2013.


About Wisscom Aerospace Limited

Wisscom Aerospace is a specialist provider of software solutions to the aviation industry, based at the Oxford Science Park in Oxford, England.

Its core products include SmartFleet, SmartTrack, SmartCloud & CloudBox, which together form an ecosystem delivering operational and safety critical voice and data communications directly with ground in real time.


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