MONTREAL — A United Nations agency is hoping to quickly introduce new measures to keep closer tabs on planes following last year's disappearance of a flight in Asia and shooting down of a passenger plane in Europe.
The International Civil Aviation Organization laid out a proposal Tuesday to improve the tracking of long-haul passenger flights by fall 2015. It also presented delegates at a conference in Montreal with a plan to exchange information about flying over conflict zones.
The high-level meeting, only the second in the ICAO's 70-year history, was called after a tragic year for air travel. Government and aviation industry officials from dozens of countries attended.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared last March and still hasn't been found, while another Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down in July while flying over an area of Ukraine where ethnic Russian rebels are trying to secede.
Under the proposal to better track flights, airlines would be required to report their whereabouts every 15 minutes.
Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO's council president, said the proposal would be sent to member states by the end of this month for "formal comment" with the aim of having it adopted "as early as this fall."
Eventually, Aliu said ICAO wants a system where, if a plane deviates from its route or if there is some irregularity, it would automatically report its position every minute.
The U.S. and Britain were among those in favor of an international standard.
Some airlines had earlier raised concern about the cost of introducing the equipment. But several industry groups also expressed support for a tracking system, including the International Air Transport Association, which represents more than 200 carriers.
The International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations also said it was on board.
"We do not currently foresee any technological impediments preventing the implementation of both short and long-term solutions," said Marion Blakey, the organization's chairwoman.
Blakey said ICAO should move quickly to introduce new requirements, otherwise states could implement their own, making it difficult to coordinate on an international level.
International aviation regulators were facing pressure to come up with solutions ahead of the March 8 anniversary of the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight. Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, urged the international community to move quickly.
"We cannot delay in implementing changes in the way global commercial aviation operates currently," he said. "On an average day, more than eight million people fly and (it) will be nothing short of negligence on our part to waste one more day."
The U.N. agency also wants to establish a central, online database where states and agencies can send intelligence or warnings about risks to aircraft flying over conflict zones. There was debate about whether the database should be made public, and Russia said the measure would require a legal review.
The Netherlands said there was no need to wait and that the proposal should be put in place as soon as possible. A majority of the 298 people aboard the plane downed in Ukraine were Dutch citizens.
The Montreal conference, which continues until Thursday, also discussed measures to prevent the Ebola outbreak from spreading through air traffic.