Airlines more aware of risks above conflict zones after MH17

MH17 wreckage
Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter)Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter)

Airlines worldwide are more aware of the risks associated with flying over conflict areas since the disaster with flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in an additional investigation into flying over conflict areas. Countries or states dealing with armed conflict on their territory, however, hardly changed anything in their airspace management, the Safety Board said in a report published on Thursday, ANP reports.

Since flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, "important steps" have been taken in improving safety, the Safety Board said. Information about flying over conflict areas has been included in international standards and the recommended practices for airlines. "More and often better" information is available for airlines and states to make risk assessments, though airlines still maintain a need for more in-depth information.

The investigation showed that some airlines now opt for a different route if there is no clear information about a certain area. An open airspace is no longer automatically assumed safe. 

In 2015, the Dutch Safety Board made 11 recommendations on how to manage the risks worldwide as well as possible. This investigation looked into to what extent governments and airlines took these recommendations. Not all airlines implemented the risk assessments to the same extent. "The working method, information position, the country of origin and the risks that are accepted differ per company." 

According to the Safety Board, airlines also do not adequately account for their own flight routes. "The Dutch Safety Board understands that publishing details is not easy. That does not alter the fact that airlines can look for a way to account for choices made."

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so far revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The JIT tracked a convoy of nearly 50 military vehicles, including the BUK that shot down MH17, from a 53rd Brigade parking area in Kursk to the border of Ukraine between June 23rd and 25th, 2014 - a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. Australia and the Netherlands officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the missile that shot down the plane - in May last year. 

In September Russia held a press conference in which the country said that the BUK missile was indeed made in Russia, but was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster. Russia has been pointing the finger to Ukraine since the disaster happened. In October the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is willing to discuss MH17 liability with the Netherlands, "partly with the goal of looking professionally at the responsibility of Ukraine".


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