Asia

MH370 search nations trial long-haul plane tracking

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777- 200ER [flight MH370, registration 9M-MRO] that disappeared from air traffic control screens Saturday 08/03/2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption No trace has ever been found of MH370, despite a huge international search

Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia are to trial a new method of tracking planes, almost a year after a Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared.

Contact with flight MH370, carrying 239 people, was lost en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Despite an extensive search no trace has ever been found.

The trial system enables planes to be tracked every 15 minutes, an increase on the current 30 to 40 minutes.

It uses technology already installed on most long-haul jets.

The system is expected to increase the tracking rate to five minutes or less if there is any deviation from a plane's expected route.

'No silver bullet'

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said the new system was a "world first". But he stressed the new technology would not necessarily have solved the mystery of MH370.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Investigators are hunting underwater for the plane

"It would have been very difficult, one would imagine, without knowing what precisely occurred in the case of MH370, to have intervened from outside," he said.

"But at least it would have tracked the aircraft to within 15 minutes."

Airservices Australia Chairman Angus Houston, who helped lead the search for MH370, agreed it was "no silver bullet".

"But it is an important step in delivering immediate improvements to the way we currently track aircraft while more comprehensive solutions are developed," he added.

The trial will begin in the Australian city of Brisbane, before being extended to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Investigators searching for MH370 are focusing on an area of the Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia.