UN bid to boost air safety backed after downing of Malaysia Airlines flight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 4:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 12:39pm

Hong Kong's aviation community has welcomed moves by the UN to improve safety in the skies after a passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine last month.

The United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) said it wanted to change how warnings were issued to prevent the type of attack that killed 298 civilians aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane.

Airline of the year Cathay Pacific said it "fully supports" more information sharing between countries and airlines that ensured safer flying.

Cathay pilot David Newbery, also an International Federation of Airline Pilots' Association accredited accident investigator, said it was a step in the right direction but route choices had to rest with airlines.

"I think any centralised control would be welcome.

"But airlines have to take the ultimate decision, and obviously take a central body [for conflict zone risk] very seriously," Newbery said.

Individual airlines and countries currently decide what foreign airspace is deemed safe.

Since the downing of flight MH17, US aviation officials have imposed flight bans over parts of Ukraine and four other war-torn regions.

Days before the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines jet flew over Ukraine, Kiev ordered planes to stay above 32,000 feet over the country's east, where its forces are battling separatists.

Small military jets had been shot down, but it was not public knowledge at the time that rebels had surface-to-air missiles capable of reaching high altitudes.

David McMillan, chairman of the ICAO task force working on reforms, said: "These recommendations will help to ensure the safety of civilian passengers and crew, no matter what airline they are flying on or where they are flying."

More recently, Cathay Pacific was among major airlines to stop flying over Iraq after large areas of the country were seized by militant group Islamic State.

A Cathay spokeswoman said it "welcomes the ICAO lead coordination and discussion of civil airspace safety… [and] fully supports the sharing of timely safety related information and uses all available information in conjunction with its current safety management system for the selection of flight routes".

The ICAO task force is meeting again in December to continue discussions.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg