Its only the second time since 1945 but the UN agency International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] has summoned the aviation industry, NGO's and Ministers from dozens of countries and meeting at its HQ in Montreal, Canada this week to square the impossible circle and reach some form of agreement to prevent flying in combat zones (Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine).
The thinking is the agency should build an intelligence database allowing regulators and governments to share known and perceived risks to aircraft flying over conflict zones. Added to this is pressure for military data to be included but also the need for military security and capability to be shielded.
Critical air notices about competing administrations are frowned on, but pressure to release information is growing. The Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines losses have contributed to the growing clamour for real time information streams.
The evidence of change is striking, on January 14th, the ICAO urgent warned its membership members aircraft flying over Libya risked being shot down.
Then a few days later, January 22nd, the European Aviation Safety Agency cascaded French warnings asserting that flights over Pakistan could be subjected to “terrorist attacks.”
Ukraine warned airlines flying over its territory (a combat zone) to remain above 32,000 feet, however MH17 was flying at around 34,000 feet when it was blasted apart by a surface to air missile.
The Netherlands - from where MH17 took off - requests airlines to tell passengers before take-off if they will cross a conflict zone, however airlines and other nations have said that this goes too far, the truth being that nearly all long haul flights will at some time traverse a conflict zone.
"We are confident that an ICAO centralized database represents a reasonable balance,” claims Ken Quinn, formerly US Federal Aviation Administration General Counsel.
However few can agree over the various levels of disclosure and filtering before its released into the public domain
However The US has long been critical and still does not believe that ICAO - a UN agency - is capable of evaluating the information and suggests the origin of source be identified, so end users can decide how much weight to give them.
Also high on the agenda is the vexed question of ejectable black boxes, in use on military aircraft for over a decade but still to be considered for civil aviation. Any sign of an impending peril, the box ejects, parachutes down and floats on the surface of water or easily located on land.
Courtesy TTG, CNS &ICAO
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