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IATA says aviation safety remains high Three accidents recorded between January and April

DOHA, June 3, (Agencies): Safety in global aviation remains high, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday, as it seeks to improve in-flight tracking after the disappearance of a Malaysian passenger jet in March. There were 0.34 accidents per million flights in the first four months of 2014 compared with 0.32 over the preceding five years, IATA said at its annual general meeting in Doha, Qatar. “The preliminary rate for the industry as a whole (including non-IATA airlines) is performing strongly,” with 0.29 accidents per million flights in January-April against 0.48 in the previous five years, it said.

IATA groups 242 airlines representing 84 percent of global air traffic. Its statement noted that the industry recorded three accidents between January and April, including the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. “Aviation stakeholders are united in their desire to ensure that we never face another situation where an aircraft simply disappears,” said Kevin Hiatt, senior vice president at IATA’s Safety and Flight Operations department. MH370 disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. An extensive search in the Indian Ocean has been unable to locate the plane.

An IATA taskforce on in-flight tracking, formed by the UN’s aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), is to present its findings in September. “While states work through ICAO to develop and implement performance-based global standards, the industry is committed to moving forward with recommendations that airlines can implement now,” said Hiatt. He acknowledged, however, that airlines alone can decide if they want to implement such standards.

Meanwhile the company specialising in air transport communications and information technology SITA announced in Doha plans to introduce a new aircraft tracking device. “The solution, which is currently being evaluated by several airlines for testing, will utilise technology that is already installed in the aircraft to provide advanced tracking capabilities,” a statement said. It said the system known as “SITA AIRCOM Server Flight Tracker solution” will alert airline flight dispatchers “to unexpected aircraft movements” it said.

According to its designers, “the solution does not call for extensive additional cost or investment by the airlines” as it relies on a system that is already installed in many aircraft. As more cargo shifts to passenger planes and back onto the seas, airlines are having to rethink their cargo operations or risk the freighter plane becoming a thing of the past. While some carriers have already reduced the number of freighter planes they operate, more drastic changes to shorten transport times and regain ground lost to the shipping industry are needed, delegates at an annual airline meeting in Doha said. Air freight built a reputation for getting bulky, expensive goods from A to B as quickly as possible. Even today, the $6.8 trillion worth of goods transported by air cargo every year represents 35 percent of international trade by value but only 0.5 percent of total volumes. But as paperwork has increased, the average time it takes to shift a product from the manufacturer to the final importer stands at 6.5 days, compared with Lufthansa Cargo’s boast in the 1960s that the process took only three days.

High value goods such as electronics have also become smaller, meaning they take up less space and do not need dedicated freighters for transportation. These trends are pushing companies such as AstraZeneca, Ericsson and Sony to transport more of their pharmaceuticals and electronics via sea at lower cost. In addition, growing demand for plane travel means more and more freight is being transported in the holds, or bellies, of passenger planes. The International Air Transport Association, meeting this week in Doha, predicts cargo volumes will total about 52 million tonnes this year, effectively unchanged since 2010. “The industry needs a structural redesign,” Glyn Hughes, director of cargo industry management at IATA, said on Tuesday.

Airlines have so far reacted to the tough cargo market by cutting capacity and taking freighters out of service. “Most are losing money and they respond by cutting capacity to try to break even to survive this slump,” said Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. Lufthansa Cargo has postponed a decision on whether to take more Boeing 777 freighters. Other carriers such as Air France-KLM, Singapore, Japan Airlines have all reduced the number of freighter planes they operate. Air France-KLM — whose passenger aircraft currently account for 72 percent of total freight capacity compared with 54 percent in 2007-08 — plans to make a decision in a couple of weeks on whether to reduce its fleet of freighter-only aircraft further, Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac said at the meeting. The carrier has already cut its freight-only capacity by 11.5 percent to 14 aircraft in 2013.

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