International civil aviation authorities have called for a task force to find a way for high-level information about risks in airspace over conflict zones to be sent to civil aviation authorities.
After a meeting in Montreal Tuesday, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization said they are hoping the task force would report back by February.
The meeting comes after the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 as it flew over a war-torn area of Ukraine. One Canadian was among the 298 people who died.
States must assess risk
It is the responsibility of individual states around the world to assess risk in airspace over their territory, said Tony Tyler, IATA director general.
He said it should be possible for states to pass on information about risk to international aviation authorities, without releasing sensitive security details.
He said the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet proved there was a “gap in the system” in getting information to airlines.
The MH17 crew “were told that above 32,000 feet they were not in harm’s way,” he added.
ICAO president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu reminded states that it is their duty to provide risk assessment in their airspace to civil authorities.
Right now, it's up to individual states to warn airlines about any risks in their airspace and to close off airspace if the risks are too high.
But he acknowledged one of the challenges the task force faces is to get military and state intelligence agencies to work together and agree to share information with civil authorities in a timely way.
Statement on MH17
“We would like to jointly express our strong condemnation of the use of weapons against civil aviation. The downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 is unacceptable,” ICAO general director Raymond Benjamin said in a prepared statement.
"Our organizations wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic event. 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 zone," he continued
Benjamin said the agency will convene a high-level safety meeting with its 191 member states in February 2015 to consider the task force findings.
"We recognize the essential need for information and intelligence that might affect the safety of our passengers and crew," Benjamin said.
"This is a highly complex and politically sensitive area of international co-ordination involving not only civil aviation regulations and procedures but also state national security and intelligence-gathering activities."
Marc Antoine Plourde, a commercial airline pilot and aviation analyst based in Montreal, believes the ICAO did not go far enough. He believes an international body should be stepping in to act where states are not revealing complete information.
"MH17 has shown us the vulnerability of trusting just one country and their evaluation of the risk and for them to transmit the info to the rest of the airliners. There was a flaw, a huge flaw," he said.
"I think what we've learned is to better assess and to have a second party if not more on the international level to assess the risk and advise the rest of the world."
Industry representatives went further in calling for global measures controlling the design, manufacture and deployment of anti-aircraft weapons.
Acknowledging it would take longer to get action on this recommendation, it suggested an international law to control the use of such weaponry.