The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the (IATA) and other major global aviation organizations are forming a high-level international task force of state and industry experts to look at airspace security issues raised by the shooting down of flight MH17 earlier this month.
The chiefs of ICAO, IATA, Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) met in Montreal this week to discuss the ramifications of MH17 and how airspace safety information can be better collected and disseminated.
MH17 is believed to have been destroyed by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile (SAM) while flying at 33,000 ft. over Ukraine. The-200ER was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed. The U.S. says the SAM was of Russian origin and fired by Russian separatists in the Ukraine area where fighting has been taking place since spring.
At a media briefing in Montreal Tuesday, ICAO, IATA, ACI and CANSO issued a joint statement condemning the shoot down and the lack of access to the crash site, where bodies still have to be recovered.
“While aviation is the safest form of transport, the MH17 incident has raised troubling concerns with respect to civilian aircraft operating to, from and over conflict zones,” the joint statement said.
“We have met at ICAO today with collective resolve to urgently review the issues and potential responses to be pursued. As a first step, states have been reminded by ICAO of their responsibilities to address any potential risks to civil aviation in their airspace.”
Findings of the task force are to be submitted to a special meeting of the ICAO Council “as urgently as possible." Although no timeline was given, this is expected to happen within weeks.
ICAO is also convening a high-level safety conference with all of its 191 member States in February.
There was also a call by the air transportation industry through its representative organizations for ICAO to find fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry.
And the air transport industry said there was a need to incorporate into international law, through appropriate United Nation frameworks, measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry.
IATA Director General Tony Tyler said at the media briefing that MH17 had “exposed a gap” in the air transportation system, but also warned against rushing into solutions that could have unintended consequences on what is essentially an extremely safe system.
“Airlines need clear guidelines and information on where to operate safely,” Tyler said. “This is the responsibility of states and there can be no excuses. We need essential and actionable information. Industry is ready to assist in any way possible to make this happen.”
ACI DG Angela Gittens said the task force would work to “connect the dots” with military and intelligence organizations. “We need to engage outside of [commercial] aviation because the solution lies outside,” she said.