Airline industry seeks better information on conflict zones

Airline industry seeks better information on conflict zones

DUBLIN - Reuters
Airline industry seeks better information on conflict zones


The aviation industry is still struggling to gain better access to information on conflict zones, more than a year after the downing of a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine last year.

In its report on the MH17 tragedy, published this month, the Dutch Safety Board said the responsibilities of states for ensuring the safety of their airspace should be more clearly defined and that the airspace should have been closed.

The aviation safety arm of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is looking at the recommendations made by the Dutch board and will decide whether a task force should be set up to put them in place.

Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said an information-sharing site set up by ICAO in April was a good start but that states need to use it.

“One has to appeal to states to live up to their responsibilities in this area,” he said at an aviation security conference in Dublin on Oct. 26.

So far, six states have actively published advisories on 14 countries, for a total of 41 postings, Stephen Creamer, director of ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau, told the conference.

But any advisories issued by states about hazards in other countries take up to 72 hours to appear on the site because ICAO is keen to ensure a right of reply.

Creamer said that ICAO does recognize these issues and is looking at ways for information to be published more directly and at what other adjustments can be made once the site’s first year has been evaluated.

Tyler said that a diplomatic conference should be convened to discuss how states can better share information and pass it on to airlines.

“I do always come back to the thought that what’s the point of having information if it can’t be passed on,” Tyler told journalists in a briefing, adding that there is a natural reluctance of governments to share information in an area as sensitive as security.

Meanwhile, it seems the industry has become more aware of the risks of flying over conflict zones. Carriers regularly avoid Syria and Iraq, for example, creating a more densely populated route over Turkey and Iran on flights between Europe and the Middle East, said the European air network manager of Eurocontrol, Joe Sultana.

However there was still a substantial difference in the way airlines responded to Russia firing missiles from the Caspian Sea into Syria, affecting that corridor, Creamer said. Some rerouted flights for a day or two, others did not.