Airlines Flew Over Ukraine Until Malaysia Crash Despite Danger Signs
Amsterdam ( TheStreet) -- Star-crossed Malaysia Airlines suffered its second fatal accident in five months, apparently because it flew into dangerous air space where flying had not been banned, even though the Federal Aviation Administration warned against flying in nearby Crimea two months earlier.
Malaysia Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia was apparently shot down in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, killing all 295 people aboard. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko blamed a "terrorist act." Both the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in the area denied involvement.
Within hours after the crash, at least three European airlines said they had ceased flying over the area.
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On May 3, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to airmen prohibiting flight operations in Ukrainian airspace "over the Crimean Peninsula and the associated Ukrainian territorial sea, as well as international airspace managed by Ukraine over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov."
The area is scores of miles from the area where Flight 17 was shot down. The FAA notice prohibited flying by U.S. airlines, U.S. commercial operations and, with narrow exceptions, pilots certified in the U.S.
The FAA notice was issued not because of a terrorist threat, but rather because of "the potential for civil aircraft to receive confusing and conflicting air traffic control instructions from both Ukrainian and Russian (air traffic control) providers."
The dispute meant that flying in the region "is unsafe and presents a potential hazard to civil flight operations in the disputed airspace," the FAA said.
Malaysia is a member of the Oneworld alliance, which includes American
The primary codeshare partner on the flight was KLM, a member of the Skyteam alliance.
"It is with great regret that KLM has learnt about the accident with flight MH17, codeshare KL4103, of Malaysia Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur," KLM said Thursday in a prepared statement. "As a precautionary measure KLM avoids flying over the concerned territory."
Lufthansa spokesman Nils Haupt said: "Up to now there has been no closure of Ukrainian airspace, (but) Lufthansa has decided to fly a wide detour around east Ukrainian airspace with immediate effect.
"The safety of our passengers is our top priority," Haupt said. "A total of four flights are affected today. Presently no restrictions apply to the Lufthansa destinations Kiev and Odessa."
Air France also said Thursday that it will avoid Ukrainian airspace, according to reports.
"The entire airline industry may have seriously misjudged its decisions to fly over Ukrainian air space," aviation consultant Bob Mann said Thursday. "Given hostilities that seemingly escalate every day, I wonder whether anybody will still be overflying the Ukraine tomorrow."