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Demands mount for governments to re-route flight paths

August 1, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The world’s airlines are angry. Following the MH17 shoot-down disaster over Ukraine, demands are mounting for government action to make any repeat of the atrocity impossible. The Australian Government is being pressed to compel all Australian-registered airlines and flights entering or leaving Australia to reroute flight paths away from conflict zones.

New demands have come from unions and from airline and aviation bodies.

IATA and the rest of the industry have called for controls on the design, manufacture and deployment of anti-aircraft weapons.

“Weapons of war – including powerful anti-aircraft weaponry – are also in the hands of non-State entities,” warned IATA director general and chief executive Tony Tyler.

“We have conventions that address chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, plastic explosives, and weapons trade generally. But there is no international law or convention to manage them as exists for many other forms of weaponry. MH17 shows us that this is a gap in the international system which must be closed.”

Additionally, airlines are insisting that governments provide better information on risks, so that carriers can assess the various threats they may face.

In Sydney yesterday, Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary Tony Sheldon said airlines must not be allowed “to put profits ahead of safety by ignoring global safety warnings”. The Federal Government should compel Australian-registered airlines and flights entering or leaving Australia to reroute flight paths away from regions where war hazards exist.

Sheldon spoke as air safety authorities met in Montreal to reassess and reissue global air safety warnings in the wake of MH17.

“We’re already seeing changes, such as Emirates’ decision to reroute flights away from northern Iraq, citing the risk of militant attack,” Sheldon said.

“But regrettably other airlines persist in overflying conflict zones like Iraq, for the sake of cost and time.

“The Australian travelling public aren’t consulted on flight paths when they board their plane. But you can be sure they would expect their safety to come first.

“That’s why we call for all airlines registered in or transiting through Australia to put safety first and change their flight paths to avoid world conflict zones.”

The TWU has called on the Federal Government to step up on safety and make adherence to global air safety warnings compulsory for Australian-registered aircraft.

“In the case of eastern Ukraine, safety warnings were issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the European Air Safety Authority and the US-based Federal Aviation Administration,” Sheldon said.

“Yet many airlines chose not to heed these warnings. Media reports have noted the cost differential in flight paths which avoid the Ukraine.

“The ultimate decision on air routes is being made by the airlines themselves. And that means cost will always be calculated against risk. Air safety warnings should not be subject to this kind of economic calculation.

“That’s why we are calling for changes to aviation regulations, to make adherence to ICAO warnings a compulsory requirement.

“We are also seeking protections for pilots or aircrew who exercise their right to a safe workplace by refusing to fly on unsafe international flight paths or where ICAO warnings have been ignored.”

In Montreal, IATA joined ICAO, Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) in a declaration committing the parties to review processes for the overflight of conflict zones.

“The tragic shooting-down of MH17 was an attack on the whole air transport industry,” IATA’s Tyler declared.

“The world’s airlines are angry. Civil aircraft are instruments of peace. They should not be the target of weapons of war. That is enshrined in international law through the Chicago Convention.”

The Montreal declaration includes a commitment by ICAO, with the support of its industry partners, to immediately establish a senior level task force composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security issues arising from MH17.

“We are asking ICAO to address two critical tasks,” Tyler said.

“The first, and most urgent, is to ensure that governments provide airlines with better information with which to make risk assessments of the various threats they may face. The second is equally important but comes with a longer time frame. We will find ways through international law that will oblige governments better to control weapons which have the capability to pose a danger to civil aviation. Achieving these will make our safe industry even safer.”

In particular, the task force will look at how relevant information can be effectively collected and disseminated.

Written by Peter Needham

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