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Singapore air operators to track planes’ location under new CAAS rules

Under tougher flight tracking rules announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, air operators in Singapore will be required to track the position of their aircraft at least every 15 minutes.

SINGAPORE: In a bid to bolster aviation safety, airlines in Singapore will soon be required to track the location of their aircraft at least every 15 minutes throughout the entire duration of the flight.

The new rules, announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Friday (Mar 4), will apply to all Singapore air operators operating passenger aircraft of more than 27,000kg and carrying more than 19 passengers, as well as cargo aircraft of more than 45,500kg.

These include Singapore Airlines (SIA), Tiger Airways, SCOOT, Jetstar as well as SilkAir.

Starting Jul 1, these airlines will be required to track their aircraft either manually or automatically. From Nov 8, 2018 onwards, only automatic tracking will be permitted.

This move is consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) plans to require a 15-minute standard for normal flight tracking by November 2018, CAAS said.

The ICAO had proposed that by November 2018, all large aircraft carrying passengers report their position at least once every 15 minutes, as part of a broader plan meant to avoid a repeat of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board, and has not been found.

The CAAS requirement will cover Singapore air operators flying over any area, which is more comprehensive than the ICAO requirement, which is only for aircraft flying over oceanic areas.

“The safety of the travelling public is always our priority. CAAS has worked closely with the industry to advance the implementation of the latest rules on enhanced aircraft tracking. When fully implemented, our airlines will have added assurance of the whereabouts and safety of their aircraft operations throughout their network,” said Director-General of CAAS Kevin Shum.

Captain CE Quay, Senior Vice-President of Flight Operations at Singapore Airlines, said the airline supports the move. “Singapore Airlines is already in compliance with CAAS' new rules, as we have enhanced flight tracking capabilities that give us detailed oversight of our global flight operations,” he said.

Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tigerair Singapore, Mr Ho Yuen Sang, said the carrier is working with CAAS on implementing the tracking capabilities. “We are confident that these industry-leading regulations represent a significant step forward in aviation safety which is our top priority,” he added.

SIA ALREADY HAS FLIGHT-TRACKING CAPABILITY

Singapore Airlines said all its aircraft already have flight-tracking capabilities. "This is done automatically through a ground system. The enhancement started about 18 months ago and there is no direct impact on fares," a spokesman said.

Budget airline Tigerair, which is about to be fully owned by SIA, said: "We have been working since about a year back to enhance our aircraft tracking capability. "All our aircraft are currently equipped with datalinks which allow us to track our fleet over majority of our current network.  Currently, we are beginning to upgrade the fleet with the Iridium satellite link which guarantees us total global tracking coverage."

Tigerair added that it expects to complete installation of the satellite links for an estimated five aircraft of its 23 aircraft by Jul 1. "We will spare no effort to comply with industry safety regulations and standards," a spokesperson said.

One expert added that budget carriers are unlikely to face any major difficulty adhering to the new rules and that it will not translate to added costs for passengers.

"The budget carriers based in Singapore tend to have fairly modern fleets - large, well-equipped aircraft," said Mr Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Director of Flightglobal. "While there might be some costs associated with improving tracking on the aircraft, and so forth, it shouldn't be too difficult for these carriers to implement that. Being part of a larger family like SIA or Qantas means you also have economies of scale across the entire fleet."

CAAS will work closely with Singapore air operators to manage the transition to the new rules, it said.