UPDATE 3-Aviation industry to work on voluntary tracking ahead of UN rules

Tue May 13, 2014 4:56pm EDT
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(Adds detail from interview, context.)

By Allison Martell

MONTREAL May 13 (Reuters) - The United Nations aviation agency said on Tuesday that the industry would voluntarily begin to improve aircraft tracking while the agency develops mandatory standards for tracking following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

But the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) gave no firm timeline for when those binding standards would go into effect, reflecting the challenge of reaching an agreement with industry and governments around the world on a longstanding problem.

"A standard takes longer, it takes time. The process of cooperation is long but it's important," said Nancy Graham, director of ICAO's Air Navigation Bureau, at a press conference.

The countries that belong to ICAO's governing council met with industry groups on Monday and Tuesday in Montreal. They agreed global tracking of aircraft is needed following the disappearance of flight MH370, but did not commit to a binding, global solution or say when they would.

Instead, a task force set up by global airline industry group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) agreed to come up with proposals for better tracking by the end of September, and IATA said its members would begin implementing them voluntarily, before any rules are in place.

Kevin Hiatt, IATA's senior vice president for safety and flight operations, said the task force would offer ICAO guidance as it develops binding standards.

"They're going to take it and obviously they will review it very closely and take it to their Commission, but we have a much better chance of the ... standards coming back the other way to basically embrace what we're already doing," he said.   Continued...