MONTREAL – Malaysia’s civil aviation chief has used a high-level international safety conference in Montreal to call for change after two unprecedented tragedies involving his country’s major airline last year.
In his opening remarks on Monday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman praised the International Civil Aviation Organization for creating an aircraft tracking task force.
It was set up within weeks of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370,which went down on March 17, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
The incident was officially declared an accident by Malaysian officials last week.
“For this, ICAO deserves high praise, but more must be done,” he told delegates gathered at ICAO’s Montreal headquarters. “In this millennium age, the facts that an airplane could go missing and the flight recorders could not be recovered are unacceptable.”
The senior Malaysian official called for the real-time global tracking of commercial aircraft as soon as possible and extending the transmission life of underwater locator beacons installed on aircraft flight recorders.
“We cannot delay implementing changes in the way global commercial aviation operates,” Azharuddin said.
He also told the conference that, when it comes to flight risks, there should be mandatory reporting of relevant information to a centralized computer system to ensure that information would be promptly shared.
That particular recommendation was in response to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on July 17, 2014 while flying over a war-torn section of Ukraine.
Azharuddin reminded dignitaries of the 1944 convention in Chicago that set up ICAO and expressly prohibited the use of weapons against civilian aircraft.
“We continue to demand that those responsible be brought to justice,” Azharuddin said.
The president of the ICAO’s governing council said that total accidents were down roughly seven per cent in 2014, with only 2.7 incidents for every million flights.
At the same time, fatalities were up due to high-profile accidents like the two Malaysian airline tragedies, said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.
He said that in light of MH370, global tracking of flights must be a priority and that practical solutions are needed to deal with the challenges brought to light by the shooting down of MH17.
Michael Huerta, who runs the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, told the conference in the past, ICAO’s approach was to study the causes of accidents after they occurred.
“The new way of doing business is to use safety data to identify hazards and modify operations to prevent incidents before they happen,” he said.
Huerta noted that just last week, the U.S. and ICAO signed a data sharing agreement which he described as a great step forward.