Student Officer: Rena Jiang Position: Deputy President Introduction

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Australian International School Model United Nations, 2016 | VII Annual Session

Forum: The General Assembly

Issue: Measures to regulate air traffic safety standards internationally

Student Officer: Rena Jiang

Position: Deputy President


As technology in the modern era rapidly advances, the use of both commercial aviation and freight aircrafts has become more prevalent amongst worldwide consumers. At any given moment, an average number of 1500 passenger planes are in the air, totaling to 102,465 flights each day (refer to Figure 1). [1]


Figure : Visual of Commercial Flights Worldwide [1]

In 2011, the number of commercial plane incidents averaged to 2.4 accidents per million flights.[2] The most recent statistics shows a decrease in aviation accidents with a chance of 1 in 29.4 million [4]. To put this statistic into a percentage, it is a 0.000000034% chance of an unsafe flight, with seven leading zeros. It is evident that the number of crashes and fatalities on aircrafts has dramatically decayed from the 1970s to modern date with 41 fatal crashes and 2,347 casualties in 1972, and 3 fatal crashes and 428 fatalities in 2015[4]. However, since the commercial aviation industry was developed, 2014 has been recorded as one of the deadliest years of air transportation despite our modern technology and equipment. Because flying has become such a prevalent form of transportation amongst the general populace, safe and effective air traffic systems have been harder to manage. As a result, the number of incidents and accidents occurring during air travel has soared. With the recent disastrous events of commercial flights planes including Malaysian Airlines MH370, MH17, Germanwings 4U9525, and several others, it is imperative that international air traffic safety standards are ameliorated in order to mitigate the potential devastation aviation traffic malfunctions may cause.

Definition of Key Terms

Air traffic

Air traffic refers to the organized movement of an aircraft within a given space, meaning that air travel is managed and directed to ensure that aircrafts are separated and safely landed at their destinations.


In aeronautics, separation is broken into multiple categories including longitudinal (vertical) separation, lateral (horizontal) separation, and radar separation, where aircrafts must maintain a minimum of 300 meters (1,000 foot minimum) of vertical separation at or below 8,800 meters, or 600m (2,000 foot minimum) in altitudes above 8,800 meters.

Air traffic control (ATC)

Air traffic control is primarily monitored and observed by airport control through surveillance radars, satellites, and other guidance and control systems. When implemented effectively, aircrafts should always be separated and prevented from any collisions or related accidents.

Aviation safety

Aviation safety refers to the categorization and prevention of flight failures through appropriate measures including investigation, regulation, and education. Aviation safety can also refer to the set of standards that define the level safety for aircraft operations.

Background Information

History of air travel and traffic safety

The first successful recorded flight experiment was conducted in the early 1903. However, the research on aerodynamics and invention of the airplane stretches back to the 16th century. Engines were designed and continuously modified to support the propulsion of an aircraft, and aviation technology was further developed to maintain control. By the 1930s, the first commercial flight industries and emerged and became available for passengers. [6]

The first European airlines

On August 25, 1919, British Airline “Air Transport and Travel, Ltd.” launched its first commercial flight from London to Paris with one passenger. Other European airlines began competing against each other for aircrafts with maximal comfort and efficiency. While aviation industry at the time rapidly advanced, the complete absence of navigational aids and primitive technology contributed to the high accident rates. Luck became an important variable when flying in poor weather or atmospheric conditions for pilots. [6]

Early traffic control systems

In 1925, the increase in air traffic prompted the Morrow Report. The Morrow Report advocated for an increase in navigational regulation through unifying the aviation industry with a set of rules and procedures. Furthermore, an established regulation or control system was an imperative step in growing the industry and its reliability. As a solution, the Department of Commerce was given the responsibility to promote and regulate civilian aviation. [7]

In later years, before modern separation protocols were established, the main methods of air traffic avoidance were visual flight rules (VFRs) and instrument flight rules (IFRs). These rules and safety measures stated that:

  1. Pilots must fly clear of clouds, with a visibility of at least three nautical miles

  2. Gyroscopes (spinning disk device aligning with gravitational pull) must be used to level aircraft wings if horizons were not visible

  3. Ground based navigation aids, or “naviads” were required at airports and during flights

rena:users:rena01pd2019:desktop:screen shot 2016-01-04 at 8.33.10 pm.png

Figure : Number of Fatal Aviation Accidents: 1950 – 2014 [4]
As World War II caused an exponential growth in loosely regulated commercial aviation, more accidents began to occur until the mid-1990s, where stronger protocols were enforced to reduce the chances of aviation accidents (refer to Figure 2). [4]

Current situation in air travelling and safety standards

Since the 1930s, the aviation industry has drastically ameliorated its aviation standards in terms of both safety and comfort. In less than a century, 41,821 airports have been constructed worldwide as of 2013. In the same year, 94,431,224 passengers flew to and from a single airport alone (ATL) Atlanta, compared to the limited dozens of passengers worldwide in the 1930s.[8]

Reliability of modern air travel

Figure : Chart Representing Global Accident Rates [16]
As briefly aforementioned, recent statistics show the unlikelihood of unsafe flights. Compared to the 0.000027% chance of a fatality in a car, air travel is considered the safest form of transportation. [14] (refer to Figure 3) rena:users:rena01pd2019:desktop:screen shot 2016-01-13 at 8.07.32 am.png

79% of aircraft accidents occur in commercial aviation services, 16% in cargo services, and 5% in ferry services. [12]

Current regulation standards

ATC regulations are implemented primarily through two means: airport control, and area control. Airport control regulates commercial aviation through visual observation, surveillance displays, and radars to ensure the separation of aircrafts during taxiing, takeoff, and landing. Area control is monitored by air traffic control centers to ensure adequate separation between aircrafts. In cases where aircrafts cross over the border of a certain air traffic control center and into a foreign airspace, the aircraft is transferred into another control center, where appropriate documents are transmitted. More information can be found in source 16.

Key Issues

Unavoidable safety hazards in air travel

Many specific accidents and crashes in air travel have sparked a change in the aviation industry as specific regulations and safety requirements are enforced to prevent the same mistake from occurring again. For example, ValuJet 592 crashed into the Everglades killing 110 people on board due to an illegal chemical oxygen generator. As a result, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented mandatory smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers on all commercial airlines, and strengthened security to eliminate hazardous cargo on aircrafts.[9] In order to further push the boundaries of prevention, it is crucial that all possible safety hazards are known and understood.


While most aircrafts are able to withstand typical strikes of lightning, the metal exterior of many planes are susceptible to heavy damage when struck by positive lightning, a type of lightning with a charge as much as one billion volts. [15] Though it is rare that a situation as such will occur, it is definitely possible. Furthermore, regions with temperatures at or below 0ºC (32ºF) risk aviation accidents due to ice or snow damaging the wings, tail, or engine of aircrafts.

Foreign object debris and bird strike

Foreign object debris (FOD) are solid particles including dust, ice, or other substances that can potentially damage the engines of aircrafts. Not only does this pose a threat to the safety of passengers and crew onboard, but also results in equipment damage even if the FOD is not severe. The aerospace industry spends roughly four billion US dollars a year repairing FOD-related damages.[15] Bird strike refers to the collision between a bird and an aircraft, which is prevalent in aviation accidents. Often times, birds are ingested into the engines of a departing aircraft well within the altitude of bird flight, and causes complete engine failure or power loss. In more extreme cases, bird strike can result in a broken windscreen, forcing an emergency landing if control is not lost.

Possible problems in the air traffic control system

This section briefly outlines the most common issues that can occur due to any flaw in traffic regulation of aviation safety protocols: pilot fatigue, pilot error, and traffic.

Pilot fatigue and pilot error

Pilots can be particularly susceptible to stress, sleep deprivation, and illnesses due to their often unpredictable and demanding work hours. Fatigue can greatly increase the chances of pilot error, in which the pilot typically flies inaccurately, misses radio calls, forget routine tasks, or falls asleep. [16] Furthermore, fatigue from large amounts of mental exertion can result in poor decision-making, and in extreme cases, lead to psychological impairment.


Air traffic, or air congestion itself can be a major problem especially since air travel has become a necessity for many individuals over the past couple decades. Traffic regulation is crucial in ensuring the efficiency of flights. Regulations must consider accurate timing, flight paths, and prevent collisions. However, the issue of air congestion is almost never a fatal issue but can commonly result in delayed or cancelled flights.

Major Parties Involved and Their Views

Associations, organizations, and industries

The International Air Transport Association (IATA)

IATA is the largest international association and has established several safety management systems (SMS) to ensure the safety of aviation travel. As stated on the official IATA website, “IATA is an active participant of the ICAO Safety Management Panel and was involved in the drafting of the newest ICAO Annex, namely Annex 19 – Safety Management, which became applicable on 14 November 2013.” IATA’s policies and regulation initiatives have grown and improved in attempt to decrease safety issues. After the loss of flight MH370, IATA confirmed measures to ensure that aircrafts could always be tracked.

United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

The ICAO is a United Nations Specialized Agency and sets many global standards regarding effective law and regulations, According to ICAO’s safety implementation page, about 31% of the globe does not meet the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) regarding primary aviation legislation and specific operating regulations. ICAO worked closely with the FAA to further develop the aviation technology and management in several member states.

Member Nations

The United States of America (USA)

As a country with one of the largest economic and political influence over the world, the US plays a large role in the aviation industry and is a main supporter in airport expansion, airspace management, and safety.[12] The US has collaborated with China in advancing and modernizing technology as well as improving traffic management. The US is also a member of/works with several aviation programs and initiatives including the Safe Skies of Africa (SSFA), the ICAO, and the Regional Safety Oversight Organization (RSOO).


Canada is a strong supporter and advocate of the enhancement of aviation safety through regional initiatives, and like the United States also is a member in the ICAO Co-operative Development of Operation Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Programs (COSCAP). Canada is also a major financial aid supporter and volunteer trainer in less developed regions including North Asia (NA) and South East Asia (SEA), having donated over one million US dollars towards this cause.

Timeline of Relevant Resolutions, Treaties and Events


Description of event


Introduction of radar surveillance

Heathrow, London installs radar equipment which soon becomes the main instrument for ensuring aircraft separation


Advancement in air transportation

The United Kingdom reaches one million flights in air traffic for the first time, marking a significant technological advancement.

March 12, 1986

September 21, 1995

April 14, 1998

July 25, 2003

September 22, 2010


The Air Navigation Amendment Bill

Peter Morris, Minister of Aviation Transport introduces the Air Navigation Amendment Bill as a security prevention after the Korean Airlines flight 007 where the aircraft was shot down, resulting in the deaths of all 259 passengers and crew.

The Transport Legislation Amendment Bill

This bill proposed the mandatory installation of traffic alert and collision avoidance systems to commercial aircrafts so as to prevent accidents.

Safer Skies

President Clinton and the Clinton Administration introduce the “Safer Skies” initiative, with a mandate to reduce the accident rate of commercial aircrafts by 80% within ten years. It also promoted safety advances to prevent accidents resulting from the leading causes of aviation disasters.

Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Area Navigation (RNAV)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveils a plan to allow pilots flying commercial aircrafts to navigate to any location through RNP, RNAP, and on board technology.

Aviation/Air Traffic Safety Action Program

The FAA introduces a new safety protocol to allow communication between pilots, air traffic controllers, and the Safety Action Programs.

MH370 and MH17

Considered the most deadly year in terms of air safety, 2014 encountered several incidents, of which Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17 were most prominent, one having disappeared from radar and the other having been shot down. To date, the missing MH370 plane has not yet been found.

Evaluation of Previous Attempts to Resolve the Issue

Ever since commercial flying was introduced in the early 20th century, industries have made several efforts to mitigate the risks that unpredictable weather can pose. Now, these concerns have been greatly lessened as technology advances. However, there is no doubt that weather still contributes a large part in aviation accidents. The examples aforementioned in the timeline outline several movements addressing many of these topics.

In addition, the AFI Plan (Assembly Resolution A36-1) [19] was another resolution attempting to ameliorate aviation safety in Africa, passed by the ICAO Assembly and implemented on January 1, 2008. ICAO’s AFI Plan and its other safety initiatives have contributed towards decreasing possible risks throughout the duration of a flight. However, it is crucial that efforts directly aim towards solving the most urgent problems. (Refer to Figure 4)rena:users:rena01pd2019:desktop:screen shot 2016-01-21 at 8.36.23 pm.png

Figure : Accidents by category [16]
Attempts to solve the issue have not yet successfully combatted the high number of accidents resulting from insufficient runway safety regulations. Furthermore, statistics show that the most dangerous phase during a flight is the landing period. Undesirable weather can often lead to the reduced visibility of the airport runway, and ice and snow during cold periods can cause landing incidents.

Possible Solutions

Firstly, to regulate air traffic safety standards undoubtedly requires constant, efficient communication and collaboration between member states. This can be done through the creation of a new platform to facilitate conferences, or the encouragement of already existing organizations to meet more often. Currently, the United Nations ICAO Assembly meets at a minimum of once every three years. Topics of discussion should prioritize increasing the safety standards and supporting aviation deficiencies in less developed countries (LEDCs) so as to balance aviation advancements globally.

Secondly, and possibly most importantly, methods of prevention must be enforced. As previously stated, runway safety must be increased along with any other major risks in aviation travel, which is illustrated in figure 5 according to phase of flight.rena:users:rena01pd2019:desktop:screen shot 2016-01-13 at 8.12.10 am.png

Figure : Accidents categorized by phase [16]
The implementation of the concept of “free flight” is also an option, which aims to drive traffic management towards a more technological system rather than human-controlled. Free flight lessens the chances of human error by ATC operators and distributes the responsibility of managing traffic instead of a centralized control system. However, a possible disadvantage is that pilots of the aircrafts hold extreme responsibilities and full control over the aircraft, allowing them to make decisions regarding the path of flight. While this may be considered to be a more efficient form of traffic control, if this were to be implemented, it is crucial that pilots must always be physically and psychologically examined before flying.

Furthermore, in order to mitigate the risks of bird strike, airports must implement regulations to effectively drive flocks away. Methods could include habitat management, liaison with local farms to limit attraction of birds to fields, and bird scaring techniques such as distress noises. In addition, ground control should ensure the detection of large flocks using specialized ground-based radar equipment.

Air traffic safety standards can also be further enforced through the construction of more airport runways so as to lengthen the amount of time between landing aircrafts, further prevent collisions, and ultimately increase the safeness of both people on board and on ground.


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6. "History of Flight | Aviation." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. Retrieved from .


8. “Field Listing – Airports.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. Retrieved from .

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13. "IATA Wants New Airline Tracking Equipment - Malaysia Sun." IATA Wants New Airline Tracking Equipment - Malaysia Sun. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. Retrieved from .

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15 "Foreign Object Debris." Foreign Object Debris. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. .

16. "Portal: Safety Regulations." - SKYbrary Aviation Safety. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. .

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18. 1997-2015 Update to FAA Historical Chronology: Civil Aviation and the Federal Government. Washington, DC: The Federal Aviation Administration, 2015. PDF. .

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