Airlines to get centralised war-zone alerts

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WASHINGTON: The United Nations is creating a system to warn pilots flying over war zones to prevent attacks like the one that downed a Malaysian airliner last month in Ukraine.

The UN’s aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), wants to both improve the way warnings are issued and create a centralised distribution network overseen by the group, it said on Tuesday in a statement.

“These recommendations will help to ensure the safety of civilian passengers and crew, no matter what airline they are flying in or where they are flying,” David McMillan, chairman of the ICAO task force developing the effort, said in the statement.

The effort was prompted by the July 17 missile strike that downed Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 over an area where Russian-supported rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government.

Since MH17 was shot down, killing all 298 people aboard, airlines and governments have called for additional warnings about hazards stemming from conflicts on the ground. ICAO secretary-general Raymond Benjamin called the incident “unacceptable” at a July 19 news conference at the group’s Montreal headquarters.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has issued at least four formal flight bans above war-torn regions for carriers it oversees since the Malaysian plane was hit.

The Ukraine government issued a warning to pilots, known as a Notice to Airmen or Notam, three days before the missile attack. It ordered planes to stay above 32,000 feet in the eastern regions of the country where its military is battling separatists. The Malaysian flight was at 33,000 feet. — Bloomberg

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Aug 28, 2014.