Airlines to Get Centralized War-Zone Alerts From UN

The United Nations is creating a system to warn pilots flying over war zones to prevent attacks like the one that downed an airliner last month in Ukraine.

The UN’s aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organization, wants to both improve the way warnings are issued and create a centralized distribution network overseen by the group, it said today in a statement.

“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,” David McMillan, chairman of the ICAO task force developing the effort, said in the statement.

The effort was prompted by the July 17 missile strike that downed Malaysian Airline System Bhd.’s Flight 17 over an area where Russian-supported rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government.

Since Flight 17 was shot down, killing all 298 people aboard, airlines and governments have called for additional warnings about hazards stemming from conflicts on the ground. Raymond Benjamin, ICAO’s secretary general, called the incident “unacceptable” at a July 19 news conference at the group’s Montreal headquarters.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued at least four formal flight bans above war-torn regions for carriers it oversees since the Malaysian plane was hit.

Pilots’ Notice

The Ukraine government issued a warning to pilots, known as a Notice to Airmen or NOTAM, three days before the missile attack. It ordered planes to stay above above 32,000 feet (9,750 meters) in the eastern regions of the country where its military is battling separatists. The Malaysian flight was at 33,000 feet.

The warning described a “restricted” area without noting fighting on the ground or evidence that rebels had surface-to-air missiles capable of reaching high altitudes.

The ICAO task force is meeting again in December to continue discussions about improving the notification system, it said in the statement.

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