The European Cockpit Association (ECA), an umbrella organization representing 40,000 pilots across Europe, has called for stopgap measures to address the problem of commercial aircraft flying in conflict zones until a more permanent solution is established to prevent tragedies like the recent shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in Iran.
One proposal being floated by ECA is a “two out–all out” rule. If two European Union (EU) member states or two major airlines decide to suspend flights to a conflict zone, then all European airlines would cease flying to the area in question. “This means that passengers and crew on all airlines would benefit from the secret and non-shareable intelligence available to some ‘privileged’ authorities and airlines, and by looking only at public outcomes of their risk assessments,” ECA said in a statement.
“What we urgently need is a method of sharing and acting, not upon closely guarded intelligence, but upon the outcome of risk analysis about conflict zones,” ECA President Jon Horne said. “With these outcomes from different European airlines and states swiftly shared amongst each other and authorities, no European airline or pilot should be left in the dark — all have the opportunity to benefit from the effect of the privileged information of the best informed. Whilst many believe there should be an EU or international authority to take responsibility for the closure of hostile airspace, it is not something that shows any sign of happening soon, and so we need a pragmatic, industry-based setup that can provide meaningful protection in the here and now.”
The Iranian government said its military mistakenly shot down the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people aboard, during a period of heightened tensions in the region.
ECA lamented the fact that, more than five years after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, Europe has not developed an effective solution to sharing information with airlines about conflict zones.
Stopgap measures such as “two out–all out” are “neither conventional, ideal, nor the only solutions,” ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau said. “But the international failure to effectively cope with flying over and into conflict zones keeps costing lives. We can continue to analyze and point fingers at individual states or institutions, but this will not help us save those lives.”
Flight Safety Foundation has called for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to protecting civilian aircraft operating in conflict zones.