Recalling the tragedies of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and Air France Flight 447, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to take action in support of improved flight tracking and air navigation technology.

At issue is the guarantee to aviation of set radio spectrum availability on satellites which would allow the industry to adequately expand its aircraft tracking and NextGen air traffic control initiatives. Radio spectrum allocations are reviewed periodically by the ITU to address demand from diverse civil, governmental, and commercial applications.

“Given the limitations of aircraft tracking today, this technology is simply indispensable,” said Eamonn Brennan, Chief Executive of the Irish Aviation Authority, which has wide responsibility for air traffic management in the North Atlantic at a European Parliament symposium entitled ‘Disappeared Aircraft in a Connected World: An Urgent Call to Action,’ which took place in Brussels on July 30.

“Satellite ADS-B will greatly assist airlines, aviation authorities, air navigation service providers and search-and-rescue agencies during emergency situations,” said Brennan. “The ability to provide the location of aircraft with tremendous accuracy is precisely the kind of service being sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association, airlines and other aviation bodies.”

MEPs had the support from European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), EUROCONTROL, and air navigation service providers all joining in the call to action to advance aircraft tracking. Advancement, they argued is “imperative” and satellite communication technologies play a “critical role” in making global aviation safer. In a modern world, the MEPs argue, there is sufficient technological maturity to support the communications needs of governments, utilities, and corporations, while ensuring passenger safety.

During the last ITU Meeting in Geneva, in 2012, IATA argued that secure radio spectrum allocation is essential to safety in an increasingly crowded airspace.

“[T]he airspace is becoming more complex and the demand for frequency assignments and hence spectrum allocations is increasing. Whilst some of this demand can be met through the improved spectral efficiency of new radio systems, it is inevitable that existing allocations may need to be broadened or additional aviation spectrum allocations sought to meet this demand,” IATA stated in a 2012 position paper.

Global allocations of the radio spectrum are agreed by the 191 States of the ITU as resolutions, ultimately becoming radio regulations which, once signed, become international treaties and affect the management of airspace around the world.

Photo Credit: Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters Sgt. Adam Roberts, left, and Flight Sgt. John Mancey, launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the Australian Defence Force's assistance to the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Justin Brown / Australian Defence Department