Aviation body calls for urgent debate on airspace security

AEA says airlines need independent risk assessments of flight plans

PARIS - Europe's aviation body on Thursday called for an urgent debate on airspace security guidelines after the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine and the suspension of flights to Tel Aviv.

Airlines need independent risk assessments of their flight plans, rather than relying on governments and air traffic control alone to decide on danger zones, the Association of European Airlines (AEA) said. The crash of the Malaysian Airlines flight, which claimed the lives of all 298 passengers, was allegedly the result of a missile attack in Ukraine.

While the United States and Europe had told their civil aviation authorities to steer clear of Crimea after Russia laid claim to its airspace, the no-fly order had not been extended to where the plane crashed. This week, several airlines also suspended flights to Israel after a rocket fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip struck north of Israel's main airport in Tel Aviv.

"The downing of Malaysian Airlines' flight MH17, which was flying in approved international airspace, triggers questions about how risk assessments are made," AEA chief Athar Husain Khan said in a statement. "Together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and our member airlines we ask for an international debate about airspace security guidance."

Each country controls its airspace and there are no precise flight regulations for conflict zones, so decisions or recommendations are made by many different bodies.

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Aaj Kal