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New Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System to improve aviation safety

Tuesday 7 December 2021
New Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System to improve aviation safety

The tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014 highlighted the need to improve the global air navigation system, especially over remote and ocean areas, including near Australia. 

As a result, the new Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) has been developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), member States and the aviation industry. 

In its role as the Australian aviation search and rescue coordination agency, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) contributed significantly to the development of search and rescue elements of the GADSS following the extensive search for MH370. 

The GADSS aims to deliver incremental improvements in global capability to track flights, automatically detect flights behaving abnormally and provide timely distress alerting and accurate location data for search and rescue and accident investigation, anywhere in the world. 

The GADSS consists of three key elements: 

  • Aircraft Tracking – leverages existing technology to improve gaps in global aircraft tracking. 
  • Autonomous Distress Tracking – new system with global coverage that automatically activates and transmits an aircraft’s position when a distress condition is detected in-flight. 
  • Post-Flight Localization and Recovery – timely accident site location and recovery of flight data to assist search and rescue efforts and accident investigation. 

As a member of ICAO’s multidisciplinary working group, AMSA continues to work with ICAO partners and Australian aviation agencies on the development and implementation of the GADSS. 

AMSA Executive Director Response Mark Morrow said: “International Civil Aviation Day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of major advancements in global airline tracking, including for search and rescue.” 

“The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and high-profile aircraft accidents such as Air France flight AF447 in 2009, highlighted areas for improvement in the global air navigation system,” Mr Morrow said. 

“ICAO and member countries like Australia – along with the aviation sector – have worked together to more effectively respond to incidents by developing the GADSS. 

“At this stage, implementation by new large aircraft is the priority for the GADSS. Operators may also choose to retrofit their older aircraft or equip their smaller aircraft.  

“AMSA has been actively involved in the development of the GADSS from its beginning and we welcome the improvements it brings to the global search and rescue system. 

“Australia is responsible for one of the largest search and rescue regions - around 10% of the earth’s surface - where aircraft fly some of the most remote oceanic areas in the world.  

“Although air travel is very safe, the GADSS provides an improved level of assurance that if an aircraft has an in-flight distress event, it will automatically be detected, notified and tracked.” 

Mr Morrow said AMSA has increased its engagement with ICAO in recent years to help improve the global SAR system. 

“We have made significant contributions such as leading the evolution of the first ICAO Asia/Pacific Search and Rescue Plan, providing technical development assistance to Australia’s regional neighbours and helping to shape the GADSS,” Mr Morrow said. 

“Australia is committed to the highest aviation safety standards and measures, including search and rescue, set by international convention through ICAO.” 

AMSA, as the national aviation search and rescue authority, works with partner aviation safety agencies to maintain Australia’s high aviation safety standards and the delivery of aviation services. 

Learn more about GADSS Concept of Operations.