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Lost Malaysia Jet Makes Case for Real-Time Data Links, IATA Says

The International Air Transport Association said it will consult planemakers on increased use of real-time data transmissions that might have made it easier to locate the missing Malaysian Airline System Bhd. jetliner.

While constant downloads of all available information from every flight would be too tough to monitor and analyse, it should be possible to find a way of targeting critical data subsets, IATA Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said today.

“We’ll be looking at working with manufacturers to find out what could best be monitored or trigger-transmitted given certain conditions,” Tyler said on a conference call.

Modern aircraft already have the capability to send information to the ground in real time using the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, a digital datalink that replaced VHF voice transmissions. France’s BEA investigator said after the search for an Air France jet that hit the Atlantic in 2009 that the industry should consider mandating real-time speed, altitude and location transmissions.

Tyler said that the aviation industry remains overwhelmingly safe, with the number of crashes declining even as annual passenger totals climb beyond 3.3 billion.

“We make safety our top priority, but on very rare occasions tragedy strikes,” he said. “We are all saddened by this event.”

Tyler said he’s hopeful that the missing Boeing Co. 777-200 wide-body, which had 239 people on board and was last detected over the Gulf of Thailand, will be located soon.

“That will allow us to transition from the current speculation to a full investigation,” he said. “Our goal is to find out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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