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Why the Ukrainian plane tragedy is unlikely to lead to global airspace rules

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Why the Ukrainian plane tragedy is unlikely to lead to global airspace rules

By Allison Lampert, Rozanna Latiff and Tim Hepher

 

2020-01-14T235204Z_15_LYNXMPEG0D1HK_RTROPTP_3_IRAN-CRASH-AVIATION-SAFETY.JPG

FILE PHOTO: Soft toys are seen near the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane (flight MH17) near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo

 

MONTREAL/KUALA LUMPUR/PARIS (Reuters) - Why was the Ukrainian airliner mistakenly shot down near Tehran by Iranian forces last week for the loss of 176 lives even allowed to take off from a country that had just fired missiles towards its neighbour? And why didn't the airline just delay or cancel the flight?

 

In short - because a century of international air travel has yielded no international agreement on how or when to close airspace; and because airlines often have to rely on their own, sometimes incomplete, assessments to make the call for themselves.

 

While air travel is global, and guided by streams of instantaneous electronic data, control over each country's airspace remains entirely local and subject to the pace of politics.

 

Iran itself suffered a similar tragedy in 1988 when the U.S. warship Vincennes downed an IranAir passenger jet in 1988.

 

Ukraine, too, has been acutely aware of the problem since 2014, when Malaysia Airlines MH17 was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

 

MH17 led the United Nations' aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to launch a conflict zone website where countries could share information on potential risks around the world so that airlines could avoid those regions. Despite the deaths of 298 people, it foundered after some countries saw a threat to their sovereignty and wanted a 72-hour window to respond, rendering it ineffective.

 

LACK OF TRUST

Those sensitivities are not new. Few countries trust others to declare their airspace off limits, especially knowing that such decisions can themselves be a product of conflict.

 

In 1985, Iraq declared Iran off-limits to civil aviation. But Iraq and Iran were then at war, and the move sparked fierce debate at the ICAO.

 

In 2015, the Netherlands, home to two-thirds of the passengers on MH17, tried at least to have the ICAO spell out criteria for when airspace should be closed. Those changes have yet to be made.

 

Still, ICAO said Dutch recommendations after MH17 helped result in amendments to six annexes to the 1944 Chicago Convention, the basic global agreement on modern aviation.

 

Since 290 people died on IranAir 655, over 750 more have now been killed worldwide in attacks on various forms of civil aviation, according to Flight Safety Foundation data.

 

"Practice shows that states in which there is an ongoing armed conflict will not implement restrictions for their airspace on their own initiative," a Dutch Safety Board report last year said.

 

An Iranian commander said on Saturday that the Iranian military, which had been ordered to retaliate against U.S. troops in Iraq for the killing of an top Iranian commander by a U.S. drone, had requested a no-fly zone for the Tehran area but had been refused. He did not say why or by whom, and Iran has not commented on its decision to keep Tehran airport open.

 

It all puts the onus on airlines and other regulators to conduct their own risk assessments.

 

Yet each relies on different, potentially incomplete, intelligence briefings, and not all regulators have the same power to prevent their airlines - all operating under fierce competitive pressure - flying through conflict zones.

 

EAST-WEST CORRIDOR

Ukraine International Airlines said it had received no warning from Tehran before its flight PS752 took off, nor any reason not to fly. It was the 10th departure from Tehran airport that morning, according to FlightRadar24.

 

Even as conflict ripples through the Middle East, the region's skies are increasingly needed as an East-West corridor as airlines face growing environmental and economic pressures to save fuel by flying the most direct routes.

 

Ron Bartsch, ex-safety head at Qantas Airways, said airlines, acutely cost-conscious, rarely want to reroute far.

 

Three days after the U.S. drone strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and a day before Iran's retaliatory strikes, there were around 1,000 flights over Iran and Iraq, the International Air Transport Association said.

 

None were American, however. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority had already barred U.S. carriers from Iranian airspace after Iran shot down a high-altitude U.S. drone last June. But others assessed the risks differently.

 

IATA, representing global airlines, has said it will work to improve those assessments.

 

A source familiar with the matter said the ICAO was looking for ways to help countries improve communications between civilian authorities and the military.

 

And Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of Ukraine's national security and defence council, told Reuters that Kiev would start an effort to create a new global civil aviation hazard warning system.

 

The world's air travellers will hope they have better luck than those who have tried, and failed, before.

 

(Reporting by Allison Lampert, Rozanna Latiff, Tim Hepher, Jamie Freed, Matthias Williams, Laurence Frost; Editing by Amran Abocar, Kevin Liffey and Richard Chang)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-01-15

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1 hour ago, webfact said:

Why was the Ukrainian airliner mistakenly shot down near Tehran by Iranian forces last week for the loss of 176 lives even allowed to take off from a country that had just fired missiles towards its neighbour? And why didn't the airline just delay or cancel the flight?

That´s some pretty well thought and darn good questions.

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41 minutes ago, Pedrogaz said:

The fault lies with Trump who reneged on the agreement.

That's a relief to know. I'm glad it wasn't a bribe/ransom/quid pro quo in exchange for the release of the captured US sailors. If it had been a 140 billion dollar ransom which led to Iranians buying missiles with which to shoot down civilian airlines it would be tragic. So, thanks for clearing it all up. Trump's fault because it was his lads being shot at when the plane got hit- interesting logic!

Edited by TopDeadSenter
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7 hours ago, TopDeadSenter said:

Airspace rules will take much work to implement worldwide. But, in the meantime common sense dictates that giving 100s of billions of dollars to rogue regimes who are going to spend the money on weaponry to attack the US and civilian targets is criminally stupid. Thankfully the Daily Express is shining light on the outrageous payment(which one side of the political divide still deny happened!) to the terrorists that launched the attack on the US base and then shot down the Ukrainian airline. This is where the blame lies IMHO.

 

"As part of the disastrous JCPOA Iran deal, Obama released more than $140 billion dollars to the murderous Mullahs of Iran.

“That emboldened the regime and helped fund Soleimani’s deadly covert operations against America and our allies.”

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1228493/World-war-3-donald-trump-barack-obama-us-iran-conflict-qasem-soleimani-jcpoa

Good grief.... it’s one thing to bump your gums about the msm and all.... but dude, you just quoted Gorka, who is listed as an advisor to the president in administration 45... an advisor to the trump.... an advisor with an anti Obama pro trump bias nearly as big as the trumps own self loving man in tan loathing

 

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Why would the airline not fly, if it did not know that Iran had fired missiles at Iraq? 

No one told them, why would they?

Just to let you know we are firing missiles at Iraq and US bases...ooh, thanks for that, we'll move everything of value. 

Politics against the lives of innocents...? Politics always wins. People don't count.

Conflict zones should all be no fly zones., Just like the Crimea.

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13 hours ago, ThreeEyedRaven said:

You are missing out the very valuable point here that it was not a donation, but the return of Iranian assets which had been frozen under sanctions.

"As part of the deal Tehran regained access to its own assets, which had been frozen abroad, and as a result of which the Iranian regime received up to $150 billion."

It was an internationally agreed deal, so to suggest that Obama alone was dishing out free money is plain wrong. As per the majority of your posts, information gets twisted and other highly salient information left out trying to score questionable political points.

To be even more precise,before the Mullahs overthrew the leader of Iran,the Shaw,  it was his money  not the  Iran mullahs regime money!

$400+ million with interest of 1 billion that was used in part to support proxy fighters,reports say.Ever since the Ayotollah run regime took over they were hell bent on propagating  America's demise,shouting Death to America.

 

 US lawyers argued whether it was legal or obligated to give the money to a revolutionary gov according to this WSJ story.37 years of administrations not giving in to their demand, until...

 "They also argued the embassy takeover might have breached the terms of the defense deals".

“The arms disputes were largely pushed back or ignored,” says Koorosh Ameli, an Iranian arbitrator who served on The Hague tribunal until 2009. “The parties’ legal arguments were nearly impossible to separate from their politics.”

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-the-37-year-standoff-over-irans-frozen-u-s-dollars-1482956855

Edited by riclag

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15 hours ago, Matzzon said:

That´s some pretty well thought and darn good questions.

 

My theory is because they were targeting a commercial jet. Airspeed, altitude, rate of ascent, distance from the runway. No way they thought it was anything else. Also it seems there are videos that it was hit by two missiles. 

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10 hours ago, Cryingdick said:

 

My theory is because they were targeting a commercial jet. Airspeed, altitude, rate of ascent, distance from the runway. No way they thought it was anything else. Also it seems there are videos that it was hit by two missiles. 

My theory is that they had untrained soldiers manning a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment without proper supervision as is normally the case with the Revolutionary Guard, rank is based upon political orthodoxy,  not competence 

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