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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Qatar Airways to pioneer real-time aircraft tracking

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways will become one of the first airlines to monitor all of its aircraft constantly, wherever they are in the world.

The national carrier has signed on as the launch partner for a new system called GlobalBeacon, the airline announced this week.

Starting in 2018, the technology will give the carrier minute-by-minute updates on the location of its planes, even if they are in remote areas.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The airline was inspired to take action after the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in 2014.

Despite extensive searches and analysis of satellite communication data, MH370 has still not been found. This is partly because it was flying over open ocean from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, out of the reach of radar.

In a statement this week, CEO Akbar Al Baker said:

“I am proud of Qatar Airways’ leadership in this vital area of aviation safety and awareness.”

New tracking requirements

The missing plane has also prompted an industry-wide rethink about current monitoring technologies.

For example, the United Nations’ civil aviation body has stated that by November 2018, all commercial aircraft flying over oceans should be able to report their positions every 15 minutes.

Illustration for illustrative purposes only.
Illustration for illustrative purposes only.

The ICAO has also introduced a requirement that all new aircraft manufactured after Jan. 1, 2021 have autonomous tracking devices that can send location information at least once a minute when an aircraft is in distress.

For Qatar Airways, its forthcoming GlobalBeacon system helps it meet the requirements well before deadline, according to designers Aireon and FlightAware:

GlobalBeacon will provide a permanent, real-time reporting capability, far exceeding the ICAO recommendation,” the companies said in a statement.

‘Vital area’ of aviation safety

Last year, Al Baker indicated that his airline was planning to introduce real-time flight monitoring on all Qatar Airways aircraft.

At a press conference, he disclosed that the airline was engaged in trials of a new tracking system.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

Al Baker added that he and fellow board members of IATA (the International Air Transport Association) were “very aggressive in pursuing this matter.”

And this week, he said:

“We will be the first airline in the world to have the capability to use worldwide satellite air surveillance to support our airline operations and to achieve the highest level of flight tracking standards ahead of the ICAO 2021 mandate.”

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