Air travel in the aftermath of MH370
The reason why Malaysian Air flight 370 (MH370) went missing more than a month ago is still shrouded in mystery. Yet as search and retrieval operations are one step closer to finding fragments of the wreck, aviation experts and safety advocates are clamouring for a change in the way flying should be conducted.
Travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller lists down five ways flying could change in the wake of MH370:
1. Stricter ID checks. Malaysia admitted that it did not normally check passenger IDs with the International Criminal Police Organisation’s (Interpol) list of stolen passports. This was how two Iranian passengers (earlier thought of as terrorists but were actually asylum seekers) got hold of fake passports. Only a few countries, including the UK, consistently follow this rule.
2. Improved pilot security. Cockpit security has been on priority ever since 9/11. But the cockpit is still vulnerable every time the door is opened. To improve this, experts are asking for tighter security measures like double doors or security gates to prevent criminals from entering the main doors. Malaysia Air’s new policy could also be adopted by other airlines: pilots are not allowed to be alone in the cockpit.
3. Improved black boxes. The black box or flight recorder is the key to airplane crash investigations. Search operations for MH370 are now concentrated on finding the faint pings of the plane’s black box in the Indian Ocean. But to prevent time-consuming searches for the black box, planes could have duplicate recorders that can float on water. Black boxes with extended battery life can also help.
4. Data streaming from planes in real-time. Why can’t planes rely on technology that would send information to authorities in real-time? Rather than rely on black boxes that would extend investigations for months after a crash, real-time data streams through satellite feed could lead to faster investigations. However, cost has been a huge hurdle in such a technology. Outfitting one plane would cost $100,000.
5. Worldwide real-time tracking of planes. The aviation industry badly needs an update in terms of locating planes. At present, the technology being used can be dated back to World War 2. GPS has allowed people to locate smartphones anywhere in the world — the same technology could be used for planes. Fortunately, many countries are now taking strides to solve this problem, including the satellite-based ATC system called NextGen being developed in America.