The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) task force on risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones (TF RCZ) has launched two “immediate” projects to better disseminate regional safety concerns for airlines. 

The group, which has met twice since it was formed on July 29 following the July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), says is exploring how to improve the Notice to Airmen (Notam) system to better share “urgent and critical conflict zone risk information” and will pilot a new centralized system for the “prompt sharing” of conflict zone risk information.

ICAO launched the “high level” task force to address the civil aviation and national security roles and procedures for mitigating risks to civilian airspace in conflict areas, particularly how information can be effectively collected and disseminated by fail-safe channels. 

“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,” TF RCZ and Flight Safety Foundation Chairman David McMillan, says.

The group, which includes member-states, regional organizations and industry participants, will also explore a slate of international laws to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weapons.

Notams are issued by air navigation service providers to alert pilots and dispatchers to problems and issues with airports, navigation services, routing and other obstacles to flight. On the day MH17 was downed, an Ukranian Notam, issued July 14, noted that the Boeing 777-200ER’s high altitude route, L980, was closed between 26,000 ft. and 32,000 ft. (the minimum altitude requirement for the route is  28,000 ft.). A Russian Notam issued early on the day of the crash noted that the same route, called A87 in Russian airspace, was also closed below 32,000 ft. due to “combat actions” and “facts of firing” from the Ukraine toward Russia. The aircraft was flying at 33,000 ft. when it was struck. After the crash, the same routes were closed at all altitudes.

ICAO plans to announce the preliminary findings of the task force to the ICAO Council in October.

Meanwhile the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is conducting the official investigation of the crash, has yet to send its investigators to the site due to the ongoing conflict there. 

“Although additional investigation at the crash site itself is preferable, it is not impossible to conduct an effective investigation based on other sources and to produce a definitive final report,” the safety board wrote in an Aug. 21 update on its website. “Once a secure and stable situation has been established, the Dutch Safety Board will visit the location…to verify the results of the investigation from other sources and to conduct a specific search for wreckage and other vital pieces.” Forensic data collected to date includes the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, satellite images and radar information.

Although ICAO recommends issuance of a preliminary report 2-4 weeks after an accident, DSB notes that “justified exemptions are permitted,” and “it is not exactly clear” when the first report will be published.