Nearly three years after a Malaysian airliner vanished, it’s still possible, if unlikely, for a plane to disappear. But that’s changing with new satellites that will soon allow flights to be tracked in real time over oceans.
New international safety standards also begin to kick-in beginning next year, although the deadline for airlines to meet most of the standards is still four years away. Even then, it could be decades before the changes permeate the entire global airline fleet because some of the requirements apply only to newly manufactured planes.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished from radar on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. An exhaustive search of a remote corner of the southern Indian Ocean has failed to turn up the aircraft’s remains, and search efforts were called off this week.“If the exact same thing happened today, I think we’d have the same result,” said William Waldock, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, and former accident investigator.
“There has been change, but we haven’t put anything physical into practice yet,” he said.
But Atholl Buchan, director of flight operations at the International Air Transport Association, which represents most international carriers, said a repeat of MH370 is “highly unlikely” since many airlines have already increased their efforts to keep tabs on planes over open ocean where they are beyond the reach of land-based radar.
“In a few years, new systems and technology, if adopted universally by (air traffic control providers), will allow for global surveillance coverage,” he said.