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Who was flying over Ukraine and where have they gone?

July 21, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Qantas moved its flights away from Ukrainian airspace months ago. Other airlines shifted their flight paths to avoid Ukrainian airspace almost immediately after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 last week. Some were quick to proclaim that they no longer fly in Ukraine airspace, even if they had only just stopped doing so.

Qantas made its decision to avoid Ukrainian airspace for safety reasons and it recently confirmed that none of its flight paths tracked across Ukraine. The Australian carrier re-routed its London to Dubai services several months ago so they flew 400 nautical miles south of the region.

Malaysian Airlines says 150 international flights a day were traversing Ukraine airspace until the destruction of MH17. Although MAS didn’t say so, Ukraine was making money out of all those flights, because states charge for allowing commercial planes to fly over their territory. Airlines, for their part, were saving money flying across Ukraine, because flying the most direct route saves time and fuel.

Flight tracking radar image shows planes skirting Ukrainian airspace in aftermath of MH17 shootdown

A reader of Ben Sandilands Plane Talking blog on Crikey.com.au has asked why Malaysia Airlines flight MH17’s fateful flight travelled a flight path much further north than usual, to the area where it was shot down, than when operating the same flights during the previous six days. FlightAware software does seem to show that, and it’s a lingering question.

Other airlines say they did not fly the route. Emirates told the Sydney Morning Herald it has suspended flights from Dubai to Kiev and its flights to and from Europe and the US took a different route.

Singapore Airlines said it does not now use Ukrainian airspace, though FlightRadar24 data suggests two of its flights traversed Ukrainian airspace about the time MH17 was shot down. Even Singapore Airlines A380s were taking that route, reportedly.

Singapore Airlines got itself into hot water at the weekend by sending out a tweet saying “Customers may wish to note that Singapore Airlines flights are not using Ukraine airspace.” That was considered insensitive, given the circumstances. Other carriers, like Thai International, made similar points but kept them on their own websites, rather than tweeting.

Notice on Thai International website on Friday

SIA later issued a public apology for its tweet and expressed solidarity with families affected by the air tragedy.

Air India’s Birmingham-Delhi flight 113, operated by a B787 Dreamliner, flew over Ukraine on Thursday night and at one point was apparently just 25km from the ill-fated Malaysian MH17 flight, according to the Times of India.

The paper reported that soon after the news of the MH17 crash came in, Air India sent an urgent note to all its pilots to reroute their flights and avoid overflying Ukrainian airspace.

The paper said Singapore Airlines flight SQ351, operated with a B777, was also about 25km from MH17 at time of impact.

The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an order shortly after the MH17 disaster prohibiting US aircraft from flying over eastern Ukraine.

“This action expands a prohibition of US flight operations issued by the FAA in April, over the Crimean region of Ukraine and adjacent areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov,” the FAA said.

It added that no scheduled US airlines were currently flying routes through the airspace.

Asiana and Korea Air Lines said they shifted their flight paths in March to avoid Ukrainian airspace and Cathay Pacific said it adjusted its routes “some time ago”.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Josh says:

    It’s Malaysia, not Malaysian, Airlines. How many times will you get it wrong?

  2. AgentGerko says:

    Look at a map. The fact is Ukraine airspace is in a direct line between Europe and S E Asia and virtually every carrier that operates between those two points will have flown over this airspace sometime since hostilities started. Ask the questions and see how many can deny it. Remember that QF no longer flies between Europe and S E Asia. They only fly London – Dubai and that route enables them to easily route south of the Ukraine and more towards ‘hostility free’ areas like the Middle East. It appalls me that these airlines are scurrying to pretend they never use that route and are leaving MH to be the pariah. One commentator said on national TV that “you get what you pay for”, insinuating that MH is some kind of low cost carrier rather than the full service national flag carier that it is. Let the world concentrate on finding the culprits of these terrible events and stop pointing the bone at a decent airline that I and probably many of you have flown on happily and safely.

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