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Aviation summit to discuss rocket risk, route safety

Tue, 29 Jul 2014

World civil aviation heads are holding an emergency summit in Montréal to discuss the risks to passenger jets flying over conflict zones.

The summit will be held at the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and also involves the airline body Iata (International Air Transport Association), the Airports Council International and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation.

ICAO council president Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu says, " This meeting will discuss the appropriate actions to be pursued in order to more effectively mitigate potential risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones."

The meeting follows the shooting down of a Malaysian Boeing 777 over Ukraine on July 18 and last week's temporary suspension of US and some European ones to flights to Israel after a rocket from Gaza landed close to Ben Gurion Airport.

Some airlines are now also avoiding Iraqi and Syrian airspace, where heavy conflict is also occurring.

For example, Emirates says it has changed it routes over Iraq and Syria, though alliance partner Qantas and other airlines such as British Airways have not.

Another trouble spot is North Africa, where armed militia groups have trashed Tripoli Airport in Libya.

Iata chief executive Tony Tyler says it’s vital governments take the lead in reviewing how airspace risk assessments are made.

Malaysia Airlines’ commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, was quoted at the weekend as saying: "For too long, airlines have been shouldering the responsibility for making decisions about what constitutes a safe flight path, over areas in political turmoil around the world.

"We are not intelligence agencies but airlines, charged with carrying passengers in comfort between destinations.

“Against the backdrop of increasingly volatile political situations around the world, such as Ukraine and Gaza, we as an industry must act now to create a system of approval that guarantees safe air passage for all commercial airlines.

"As things stand, airlines are ultimately responsible for making a decision on whether or not to take a particular flight path. When planning routes for our aircraft, Malaysia Airlines uses the best possible intelligence from the relevant third-party authorities to determine their safety and suitability. We consult with relevant governments, Iata, ICAO and [air navigation service provider] Eurocontrol."

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Aviation summit to discuss rocket risk, route safety