Air France 447.
Malaysia Airlines MH370.
Dec. 28, 2014: Each flight disappeared over water. Search parties had a general idea where to look for AF447, but it still took five days before wreckage was spotted in the water and two years before the flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered.
Searchers think they know generally–very generally–where to look for MH370, but no wreckage at all has been spotted.
And now there’s AirAsia QZ8501. Searchers have a general idea where to look, but not precisely.
Aviation regulators are infamous for their “tombstone” mentality–not requiring safety changes until people die.
How many people have to die before regulators finally mandate real-time flight tracking?
ICAO, the international organization that overseas safety and regulatory issues, has been dithering since MH370 about mandating real-time flight tracking. But the issue has been around since the 2009 Air France crash. There has been no action.
AirAsia demonstrates that real-time tracking is not just trans-ocean flights that need tracking. MH370 also showed this–the flight was a relatively short, intra-Asia flight with an even shorter over-water portion when contact was lost.
It’s time for ICAO to make a decision, and if it doesn’t then individual country regulators need to step up and require real-time tracking. This won’t save the lives lost but recovering wreckage and the black boxes in a timely manner could lead to safety and operational changes that will save lives in the future.
We don’t need more tombstones.