When, in my last Editor’s Message of 2013, I looked ahead to 2014, I didn’t foresee an airliner missing for months, or one getting shot down as it flew a scheduled flight from Europe to Asia. But that’s the reality the global aviation industry faces following the dual tragedies of Malaysia Airlines MH370 and MH17. Hundreds of passengers and crew are dead, or missing and presumed dead, and the industry is left searching for answers as to what happened and how to mitigate the risk of either happening again.
To that end, two industry task forces have been convened to study the relevant issues and make recommendations. The first, the Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF), is being led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and comprises subject matter experts from IATA, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), airlines, equipment manufacturers, air navigation service providers, labor groups and Flight Safety Foundation, among others. The ATTF, working with an aggressive schedule, is expected to be in a position to deliver draft options for “enhanced global aircraft tracking” to ICAO in September, leading to presentation to industry before year’s end.
The second group is the Task Force on Risks to Civil Aviation Arising from Conflict Zones (TF RCZ), which was convened by ICAO following the loss of MH17 over eastern Ukraine and which met for the first time in mid-August. The group’s mandate is to “refine the roles and procedures relating to the mitigation of conflict zone risk in civilian airspace,” ICAO said. David McMillan, chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Governors, was elected as TF RCZ chairman. “We’re looking for urgent, practical measures to address these new risks,” McMillan said. The group’s preliminary findings are expected in October.
Of course, work continues on many of this year’s “expected” issues, including more effective pilot monitoring, improved upset prevention and recovery training, integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the U.S. National Airspace System and more realistic approach and go-around practices and procedures. And that highlights one of the industry’s core strengths and a primary reason for its stellar safety record: resiliency.
The Merriam-Webster definitions for resilience include “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” It usually is not easy, but the aviation industry, because of the professionals it employs, has a finely honed ability to effectively and efficiently mitigate new safety threats without giving up ground on previous issues. I am confident this resilience will carry the day once more