February 3, 2015 / 1:33 PM / in 3 years

ICAO seen pressing for quick implementation of flight tracking

A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency pilot studies the map onboard a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream V Jet aircraft, customized for search and rescue operations, as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the waters of the South China Sea in this file photo taken March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

PARIS (Reuters) - A United Nations agency may press on Tuesday for rapid adoption of new aircraft tracking proposals, weeks ahead of the anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, officials said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization is expected to tell a safety conference in Montreal that new guidelines should come in force as early as November 2016, marking an accelerated timetable in the often laborious process of aviation regulation.

After that, it would be up to each of its 191 member states to translate the proposals into national law, with the European Union already working on legislation to that effect.

ICAO is expected to send a letter to its member states in March with the aim of adopting the guidelines in November 2015 and then making them applicable as early as November 2016, said an official involved in crafting the responses to MH370 and the crash of an Air France jet in the Atlantic in 2009.

Member nations would then have to put the rules into effect or notify any differences to the Montreal-based agency.

The new guidelines call for a combination of regular tracking in normal flight and accelerated signals whenever an aircraft flying over oceans or deserted areas gets into trouble.

But with competition growing to supply tracking equipment, most nations support so-called “performance-based measures” that would define what regulators want to happen without deciding in advance what specific solutions to enforce.

“The idea is to impose tracking but not to say you must do it this way or that way,” the official said.

ICAO was not immediately available for comment.

A final decision on the timetable will depend on the outcome of a High-Level Safety Conference being held until Feb 5.

The EU is aiming to draw up its own legislation in March as the international aviation community tries to demonstrate progress in time for the March 8 anniversary of Flight MH370. The plane vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

Airlines generally support tracking but baulked recently at a stop-gap proposal to oblige carriers to fit existing systems within 12 months, saying the technology is still evolving.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Susan Thomas

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