Pressure for tracking increases after MH370

After the MH370 went missing US pilots called for existing satellite technology to be made mandatory.

A Japanese Air Force AP-3C Orion, helping with the search of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, arrives at RAAF base Pearce in Bullsbrook, 35 kms north of Perth on March 23, 2014. Picture: AFP.

Four weeks into the hunt for MH370, pressure is building for better ways of tracking aircraft as regulators wrestle with the Malaysian jet's disappearance armed with only minimal information on the fate of its 227 passengers.

As search efforts intensified on Saturday, four weeks after the Boeing 777 went missing, a US pilots association called for existing satellite technology to be made mandatory so controllers can track jets.

Until recently, aircraft flying over oceans well outside the reach of air traffic control routinely gave their position through high-frequency radio links that are vulnerable to interference from the atmosphere.

Some airlines now use satellite-based voice and text communications, but these are not mandatory and may require a subscription that Malaysia Airlines had not signed up for, according to officials investigating the loss of Flight MH370.

"Technology that exists today can pinpoint the location of aircraft in near real time and, in this day and age, it is unacceptable that the location of the aircraft is unknown," the US-based Air Line Pilots Association said.

"Implementation of technology such as ADS-B and use of satellite surveillance of aircraft during flight operations must become the standard across the industry," it added in a statement received on Saturday.

ADS-B is a satellite navigation device capable of linking to the Global Positioning System or other space-based networks.

MH370 disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of 8 March.

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems but say evidence suggests it was deliberately diverted and crashed in the Indian Ocean, where an intensive search is trying to find the plane's black box recorders before their batteries run out.

Black boxes come with locator beacons designed to work for 30 days. A Chinese ship detected a signal in the south Indian Ocean on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, but it was not immediately clear whether it came from the missing jet.