After Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane mystery, DGCA orders change; IndiGo, Air India flying with ACARS

Written by fe Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: May 8 2014, 02:23am hrs
AviationAll carriers asked to use onboard Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System or Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast for real time tracking.
The governmental regulatory body for civil aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Wednesday said that it has issued guidelines to airlines for real time tracking of aircraft on the wake of the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The directives, which were sent to the airline operators in the form of Air Safety Circular, is applicable for passenger as well as cargo flights run by both scheduled and non-scheduled operators.

Airlines will now have to use inboard Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) or Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) to track their flights.

Operators will also have to ensure the serviceability of ACARS or ADS-B, depending on the system they use, before every departure, said a DGCA circular that was sent to the airlines on May 5, a copy of which has been reviewed by FE.

Airlines servicing flights over areas with no coverage of ACARS or ADS-B have been advised to devise a procedure for effective tracking of their aircraft.

In addition, the regulator has ordered flight crews to report aircraft coordinates, speed and altitude every 15 minutes while flying over such areas.

It has also asked the operators to 'monitor both fault and warning messages of ACARS'. Any issue with ACARS or ADS-B would now be required to be immediately communicated by the flight crew to ground stations using a voice or data link.

However, a deadline for the implementation of the real time tracking system hasn't been stated yet.

The recent mandate by DGCA, meanwhile, could prove to be an expensive affair for the airlines which will either have to implement or upgrade their existing technology to meet the regulator's demand. Industry sources confirm that airlines like IndiGo and Air India has ACARS technology implemented for tracking its aircraft. However, FE couldn't independently verify this from IndiGo.

National carrier Air India has ACARS technology implemented to track its Boeing and Airbus fleet, said a pilot with the airline.

However, while its bigger aircraft like B 787s and B 777s have the technology which can be used to track the aircraft over sea as well as land, other aircraft namely Airbus 320s and B 737s currently have technology to track the aircraft only over land.

"The process to implement DGCA's mandate could take months, the pilot added.

When contacted, a spokesperson of Jet Airways said that the airline hasn't received any communication from the regulator on the subject. Other airlines like IndiGo and Go Air were not available for comment.

Malaysian Airline flight MH370 a Boeing 777 aircraft which had 239 people on board, has been missing since March 8 during a routine trip to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. An ongoing multi-nation search to retrieve the aircraft have been unsuccessful so far. This incident has lead to regulators like DGCA asking airlines to step up the real time tracking of their aircraft.