Singapore won’t let planes out of sight

Singapore keeping planes on close watch
Singapore keeping planes on close watch

Singapore will require all of the city-state's aircraft operators —both passenger and cargo services — to ping the location of all their aircraft every 15 minutes throughout flights.

"This move is consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) plans to require a 15-minute standard for normal flight tracking by November 2018," the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a press release Friday. "Also, we will impose this requirement on our airlines flying over any area, which is more comprehensive than the ICAO requirement which is only for aircraft flying over oceanic areas."

The new rules will apply to all passenger aircraft of more than 27,000 kg and carrying more than 19 passengers and cargo aircraft larger than 45,500 kg. The requirements will allow airlines to track their planes either manually or automatically from July 1 of this year, but they must all switch to automatic tracking by November 8, 2018.

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The rules may not apply much burden on Singapore-flagged passenger carriers.

Singapore Airlines is already in compliance with the new rules, Captain C.E. Quay, the carrier's acting senior vice president of flight operations said in the release.

Tigerair Singapore, which is majority owned by Singapore Airlines, is working with CAAS to better track its planes, the release said.

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Ensuring airlines know where their planes are became a hot-button issue after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished with barely a trace nearly two years ago.

The flight is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean, diverting far off course for unknown reasons. But a dearth of tracking data has made finding the crash site difficult, with more than 60,000 square kilometers already searched to no avail.

Late last year, a piece of debris determined to be from the plane was discovered on Reunion Island, while earlier this month, another piece that may also be wreckage was found in Mozambique.

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1