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Airline safety regulations in flux after MH-370 crash

[JURIST] The head of the US National Transportation Safety Board [official website], Chris Hart, stated on Friday that airlines around the world are not acting quickly enough [AP report] to address safety standards in the wake of the MH-370 disappearance. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) [official website], a UN agency that sets global aviation standards, has taken actions to address the most common safety gaps. Among other things, planes in "distress" will be required to automatically report their position and other critical information at least every minute to help searchers find the wreckage. Flight tracking, wreckage search, and flight tracking technologies are some of the areas being addressed in general. However, according to Hart, very few if any of these standards may become effective for another decade and not all of them apply to existing airplanes. Hart stated that "We are concerned about the slow pace of progress at both the national and international levels ... We believe this is long overdue." For instance, ICAO also adopted a standard this week requiring planes to include 25-hour voice recorders to capture an entire flight, as well as crew preparations beforehand. This requirement does not apply to planes already in service, which can have lifespans of 20 years or more, nor will they apply to planes manufactured for another five years.

Airline safety has much become a heavily discussed issue round the world in the wake of a series of disasters that have occurred in the past three-to-four years. The disasters have been attributed primarily to lax safety standards and/or poor implementation of the same. The Malaysian Airlines MH-370 disappearance was the first major event that occurred March 8, 2014. Very little, if any of the wreckage has been found to date, leaving questions as to what caused this disaster. In June 2015 the ICAO downgraded [JURIST report] the security rating of Thailand's aviation sector from Category 1 to Category 2 after finding that Thailand aviation's safety measures fell below [official report] UN agency standard. In August 2014 an India passenger plane, Jet Airways, that was carrying 280 people from Mumbai (Bombay) to Brussels suddenly dropped 5,000 feet [The Observer report], after a co-pilot got distracted on her iPad. This accident prompted an emergency message from an air traffic control center in Ankara in Turkey. In July 2014, Malaysian Airlines MH-17 was brought down [BBC backgrounder] in rebel-held Eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air ground missile. Airlines have since been warned not to fly over the region. Russia vetoed [JURIST report] a UN Security Council [official website] resolution that would have created a new tribunal to prosecute those involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine last July.

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