Task force to focus on air safety in conflict...
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Jul 30, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Task force to focus on air safety in conflict zones

UN agency in charge of civil aviation safety tells member states to disclose any risks for commercial airliners


The United Nations agency in charge of civil aviation safety is creating a special task force to boost the security of commercial airliners flying near conflict zones.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization said the task force would report back with recommendations in the next six to eight weeks. It is also convening a high-level safety meeting of all 191 member states for next February.

Aviation safety groups and industry leaders met on Tuesday, in light of the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over war-torn Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile earlier this month. The plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was carrying 298 people, including a medical student from the Toronto suburb of Ajax.

Officials expressed frustration that investigators still face difficulty in gaining access to the crash site 12 days after the jet went down.

Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, president of the ICAO Council, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that his group has reminded member states of their responsibility and obligation to report any potential risk of unrest over their airspace.

He acknowledged, however, that this can be politically challenging, given that airspace belongs to individual countries and the UN organization has limited power to compel disclosure.

But Tony Tyler, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 of the world’s airlines, said he hoped governments and intelligence agencies would share information, “where it can lead to the saving of human life.”

Airlines want to determine their own flight routes and patterns, Tyler said, but they must rely on governments to give unequivocal and clear information.

“It’s not helpful when we get conflicting information as we saw at Tel Aviv airport,” he said, referring to rocket attacks near Ben Gurion airport last week that saw U.S. authorities order its carriers to stay away, while Israeli authorities said it was safe to fly.

“We can’t have a situation like that occurring again,” he said.

Toronto Star

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