By GEOFFREY DELL
As investigations continue into who brought down the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with 298 people on board – including at least 28 Australians – questions must be asked as to why the plane was flying over the troubled Ukraine region in the first place.
Malaysia Airlines has confirmed the Boeing 777-200 departed Amsterdam airport at 12.15pm local time and was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10am, local Malaysian time.
The airline said in a statement that the flight route was “declared safe” by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
And International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.
The chilling conversation intercepted after MH17 was brought down.
Was it safe to fly there?
The prima facie evidence says that it was not safe, so somebody made a mistake. ICAO issued advisories weeks ago that airlines should avoid this area.
Other airlines have already said that they changed their air routes in response to that advisory, but for reasons yet unknown Malaysia Airlines didn’t change its routes over the Ukraine region.
One of the other factors to influence this tragedy is that local airspace managers for that area didn’t close all the airspace over the region; they only closed the airspace below 32,000ft.
Flight MH17 was reported to be flying at a height of 33,000ft, just 1,000ft above the restricted airspace over Ukraine.
ICAO has also issued a statement today saying the aircraft was not in the restricted zone.
ICAO recently issued a State letter advising States and their air operators of a potentially unsafe situation arising from the presence of more than one air traffic services provider in the Simferopol Flight Information Region (FIR). The loss of MH17 occurred outside of the Simferopol FIR and ICAO stands ready to support the accident investigation upon request.
But if the airspace had been closed completely then the plane would not have been able to get clearance for a flight plan over the area.
The fact that the airspace wasn’t completely closed meant there would be no comment to the flight plan when it was lodged with air traffic services in Amsterdam who would then pass it on to other air services along the route.
Safety comes first
Airlines should be taking all the precautions they can with commercial flight plans. They are supposed to take action to protect their passengers, their crew and their aircraft – their three primary assets – and if you’ve got intelligence and advisories saying this is an unsafe area, then they should avoid it and find a different route.
The majority of airlines are flying routes around Ukrainian airspace today. FlighrRar24
The risks of flying in any conflict zone are just too great for any commercial airline, not least that a passenger plane can get shot down as in this case.