Change of flight routes?

first_imgThe downing Malaysia Airlines MH17 with 283 passengers and 15 crew by a sophisticated surface to air missile is likely to cause a paradigm shift in the thinking of flight paths over trouble spots and war zones.Both the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Air Transport Association had apparently declared the flight route taken by MH17 as safe, probably because of the very high altitude the aircraft fly over Ukraine.It is understood that all airspace above 30,000ft was cleared and at the time of the tragedy there were at least 50 planes crossing Ukraine in all directions – including over the conflict area.In fact there was a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 and an Air India 787 only 25km from the Malaysia 777 when it was shot down according to Flightradar 24.IATA’s Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said that he shared the shock and sadness expressed by so many around the world on the terrible loss of MH 17. “At this time, it is important we are very clear: safety is the top priority. No airline will risk the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft for the sake of fuel savings. Airlines depend on governments and air traffic control authorities to advise which air space is available for flight, and they plan within those limits,” said Mr Tyler. “It is very similar to driving a car. If the road is open, you assume that it is safe. If it’s closed you find an alternate route. Civil aircraft are not military targets. Governments agreed that in the Chicago Convention. And what happened with MH 17 is a tragedy for 298 souls that should not have happened in any airspace.”Aircraft have been flying over trouble spots for decades without incident because typically insurgents lack the military hardware to reach the cruising altitudes of high flying commercial or military jets.Certainly a few commercial passenger aircraft have been shot down but typically at lower altitudes or by the military in supposed mix-ups.However with rebels and terrorists becoming more sophisticated and some countries willing to supply more capable hardware the threat of another shoot down of a high altitude passenger aircraft is all too real.There is also the deep concern that other terrorists groups wanting to emulate the “success” of the shoot down.Aviation authorities and airlines will now have to go to great lengths to assure the travelling public that air routes are well clear of trouble spots.Changing air routes particularly those from SE Asia to Europe will add considerably to the operational challenges as extra fuel will be required to fly more circuitous routes.Potentially there are a number of areas that airlines may now avoid such as Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, Iraq, Syria as well as Ukraine.Interestingly one of the most cooperative countries for over flights has been Iran which wants the US dollars that airlines must pay to fly over its territory.And while airlines will be striving to assure passengers they are avoiding trouble spots, passengers themselves will possible start avoiding Malaysia Airlines.The double loss of MH370 and MH17 is a terrible blow to the airline. If the airline wasn’t government owned it would likely collapse from the impact of these tragedies. But it will survive.For the wider industry the losses will also have an impact as passengers rethink air travel in general despite the fact that it is the world’s safest mode of transport with 100,000 flights carrying 8.25 million passengers every day.Today the loss of a large modern commercial jet aircraft with a first rate airline is extremely rare – so two such losses in the space of 132 days is devastating to the industry’s safety record.last_img

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