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Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, left, president-elect of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council, holds a news conference at ICAO headquarters on May 13 in Montreal with Nancy Graham, center, ICAO director air navigation bureau and Kevin Hiatt, IATA vice president for safety and flight operations. / MARC BRAIBANT, AFP/Getty Images

After two days of meetings in Montreal, aviation regulators and airlines agreed to track all flights globally, to avoid a repeat of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

But the timing is uncertain for when all airlines will be expected to pinpoint their planes over oceans.

The 36 countries that belong to the governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations that suggests policies, agreed to flight tracking along with airlines represented by the International Air Transport Association.

"We have met here these past two days to agree that global airline flight tracking is needed," Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO council president, said at a news conference to close the meeting.

Now ICAO will provide leadership to the industry to develop standards for flight tracking intended to apply to all airlines in its 191 member countries, Aliu said. But because the formal standards must be developed by consensus among countries and the industry, Aliu could not estimate when they could be completed.

"I can't give you the timing now," Aliu told reporters after the meeting.

In the meantime, a 20-member task force representing regulators, airlines, manufacturers, pilots and others will meet monthly in order to propose a framework of solutions about how to better track planes by September.

Kevin Hiatt, the airline group's senior vice president for safety and flight operations, said the task force will review proposals from at least 30 vendors to determine which ones offer the best plans to track a plane to within certain parameters, such as by satellite to within 6 miles.

But Hiatt said airlines have different equipment and different needs around the world, so there might be a variety of ways to reach the same goal.

"One size will not fit all," Hiatt said.

For example, satellite companies are offering to provide services to airlines, including Inmarsat, which detected signals from the Malaysia flight, which offered some services for free. But that option might not be the best fit for all airlines in all regions.

"We will examine that through the course of the task force," said Nancy Graham, director of ICAO's air navigation bureau. "That's one of a few different offers. We're grateful."

She said other estimates that equipment would cost $100,000 for each aircraft to communicate with satellites represent just one option among many.

"There are others that are less costly," she said. "That's one of many solutions, but there are many that cost less."

The task force also won't be able to force airlines to start using better tracking equipment. But Hiatt said voluntary participation is expected.

"We can't force our members to do anything," Hiatt said. "Based on what we've seen with public perception, I think we'll see some pretty good participation."

The meeting came as the search continues for the Malaysia flight missing since March 8 with 239 people aboard.

But Aliu noted that air travel is relatively safe, with fewer fatalities worldwide last year, among 32 million flights carrying 3 billion passengers.

"Let us please be very clear today that a capability to globally track airline flights will not replace our sector's separate cooperative efforts, which are more directly focused on preventing future accidents or incidents," Aliu said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Airlines, regulators agree to track flights globally

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