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After Malaysian flight disappearance, airline group says it will propose new tracking options

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DOHA, Qatar - An organization representing airlines worldwide will offer a list of recommendations in September to improve the tracking of aircraft after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the group's director said Monday.

Tony Tyler made the comments to industry officials and airline CEOs at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Doha, just three months after the disappearance of the Malaysian plane with 239 people aboard. The IATA represents 240 airlines carrying 84 per cent of all passengers and cargo worldwide.

Discussions about real-time tracking and airline safety feature in many sessions of the IATA meeting, held this year in the Gulf-Arab nation of Qatar. That's because passengers and even experts continue to wonder how an aircraft can just disappear without anyone knowing what went wrong, Tyler said.

The hunt for Flight 370 has turned up no confirmed sign of the Boeing 777, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Authorities believe the plane turned sharply en route and flew to the southern Indian Ocean. Not a single piece of the missing plane has been found.

"I have no idea what happened to that aircraft. To be honest, I don't think anyone else has either," Tyler said.

He said until the aviation industry knows what happened and what caused the airplane to disappear, there is not much to do to prevent it from happening again.

Tyler said what airlines can do is work on preventing another aircraft from vanishing with better tracking because aircraft "simply cannot disappear like this again."

Qatar has just unveiled a new, $15.5 billion airport in the capital, Doha. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said his airline is exploring technology for continuous aircraft tracking that could not be switched off by anyone onboard.

"We are in the 21st century and unfortunately we are still learning," al-Baker said.

The industry is looking at ways to continuously track aircraft in ways that do not require a constant stream of data, which may not be manageable for tens of thousands of planes each day.

Tyler said the draft of recommendations for best airline tracking options will be presented to the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization in September and followed up by the IATA in December. Experts from both the IATA and ICAO will make the recommendations.

"We need to take a global mindset to problems like this because we don't want to be in a position where one government or regulatory body requires us to do it one way in one place and we have to do it a different way in a different place," he said.

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Online:

International Air Transport Association: www.iata.org

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