It is not often that an aircraft disappears en-route to a destination, but unfortunately, it has occurred. There are still no answers to what actually happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014. Similarly, Air France flight 447’s disappearance in June of 2009 remained a mystery until wreckage was discovered over the mid-Atlantic two years later. To help avoid further events like these, the global aviation industry has come together, under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), to enhance flight tracking and improve rescue and response when an incident occurs.

The Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) concept of operations addresses the timeliness of notifications when aircraft are in distress, accuracy of aircraft positioning, and the cost of flight data retrieval. Beyond flight tracking, industry expert Dan Pendergast, senior marketing director, Commercial Aviation and Network Services at Rockwell Collins, notes that GADSS is poised to have a broader impact on the industry. “GADSS will provide significant benefits to airlines and the aviation industry as a whole, and not just for aircraft emergencies, but for day-to-day operations because it provides significant improvements to the airlines’ global flight tracking capabilities thus making operations much more efficient.”

Learn About GADSS

According to ICAO’s July 2017 whitepaper, “The effectiveness of the alerting and search and rescue services is only as good as the weakest link in the chain of people, procedures, systems, and information. It is therefore of paramount importance that a global perspective be adopted in designing the GADSS, including key areas of improvement such as the availability of 4D aircraft position information for each aircraft, improved coordination and information sharing and enhanced training of personnel in reacting to rarely‐encountered circumstances.”

ICAO recommends that airlines begin to track their aircraft autonomously at least once every 15 minutes by November 8, 2018. With less than a month to go until the deadline, it is important to understand the three key components of GADSS that are designed to improve Autonomous Distress Tracking:

Aircraft Tracking Every 15 Minutes or Less:

The aircraft tracking function uses new and existing technologies to provide automated tracking once every 15 minutes or less.  This tracking includes longitude, latitude, altitude, and time to provide as much detailed information as possible and improve response. This level of tracking is only necessary in areas where air traffic services (ATS) and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) are unable to track aircraft at the rate of 15-minute intervals.

ANSPs will provide details associated with aircraft surveillance for their geographical areas so operators understand where aircraft tracking services are – and are not – available. And while an operator can use third party service providers to track aircraft, it bears the ultimate responsibility for meeting GADSS requirements, including during the emergency phases of flight.

Autonomous Distress Tracking Enables Tracking Every Minute or Less

In an emergency situation, or a distressed state, where abnormal flight conditions occur, a distressed state can be automatically broadcasted to the operator within one minute or less. This provides a location of the aircraft within a six-mile radius.  Examples of an abnormal condition include a rapid descent, unusual speed, loss of engines, or collision.  At the point one of these distressed states occurs, the Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) triggers a signal, without requiring any action from the pilot or crew.

Post-Flight Localization and Recovery

Locating and rescuing survivors immediately after an event occurs is, of course, the highest priority. To improve determining the location of an accident, ADT position information will narrow the search area to a six-mile radius. Once rescue crews are inside this radius, locator transmitters can narrow down the accident location within one nautical mile.

In addition to the November 8th deadline, operators also need to be thinking ahead to the second major portion of the ICAO recommendation. By January 2021, airlines must have a system in place that can transmit data every minute for a flight in distress. This will improve tracking the location of a distressed flight, enhancing search and rescue capabilities in the event of an aviation incident.

Are you prepared? Download 5 Things Airlines Need to Know about GADSS here to learn more.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.