An attack today over the Ukraine on Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, has the world in shock and Europe scrambling resources to respond.
There are multiple unanswered questions, but these are the facts so far from European agencies that have some purview over aviation, investigation, and security in the region.
Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation issued a statement regarding MH17:
Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those on board. According to our information, the aircraft was flying at Flight Level 330 (approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 feet) when it disappeared from the radar. This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 but was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying.
Since the crash, the Ukrainian authorities have informed Eurocontrol of the closure of routes from the ground to unlimited in Eastern Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk Flight Information Region). All flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected by Eurocontrol. The routes will remain closed until further notice.
The European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell is being activated to coordinate the response to the impact of the airspace closure.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has confirmed to Skift that the coordinating body for any potential investigations would be the European Network of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities (ENCASIA). However, ENCASIA is not answering phone calls at this time.
Skift also reached out to NATO for comments on whether they would liaise or facilitate investigations, and whether there might be a NATO response to the incident Skift received the following statement from the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on MH17:
Much is unclear about the circumstances of the crash. However the instability in the region, caused by Russian-backed separatists, has created an increasingly dangerous situation.
It is important that a full international investigation be launched immediately, without any hindrance, to establish the facts and that those who may be responsible are swiftly brought to justice.
The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) has issued the following statement:
The International Civil Aviation Organization expresses its deep regrets following the loss of the passengers and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. ICAO is closely monitoring reports on this tragic incident and is coordinating with all relevant parties.
ICAO recently issued a State letter advising States and their air operators of a potentially unsafe situation arising from the presence of more than one air traffic services provider in the Simferopol Flight Information Region (FIR). The loss of MH17 occurred outside of the Simferopol FIR and ICAO stands ready to support the accident investigation upon request.
While there has been discussion in the media about a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) recently issued by the FAA, and regarding a NOTAM issued previously by the FAA advising U.S. Carriers on flights in this region, sources indicate that a previous NOTAM this April (FDC NOTAM 4/7667 (A0012/14)) did not cover the location of the MH17 incident.
A spokesperson for the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA) explained the policies for establishing flight routes to Skift as follows:
Airlines can independently decide to avoid flying over regions of the world that are deemed unstable or hostile areas, however it is only required when a regulation or special regulation is issued by the U.S. government. FAA regulations that restrict flying in certain areas of the world apply only to FAA certificated air carriers.
ALPA also issued the following statement earlier today:
The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) is deeply troubled by reports of the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Our thoughts are with the families of the crew, passengers, and all those affected by the event. Information about the situation continues to emerge and myriad questions remain unanswered. We urge the exercise of extreme caution before speculating on the details of the reported accident or events surrounding it. As always, ALPA stands ready, through the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), to assist the international aviation community in every way possible with the shared goal of advancing a safer air transportation system around the globe.
KLM Airlines and Schiphol Airport are coordinating with Malaysia Airlines to support victim’s families at Schiphol. The KLM website’s most recent statement on the MH17 incident is as follows:
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. Our hearts go out to all families and friends of the passengers and crew on board of flight MH17.We are in contact with Malaysia Airlines to obtain further information. As a precautionary measure KLM avoids flying over the concerned territory.
Malaysia Airlines made the following statement via its Facebook page:
Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day. The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard.
Various European airlines, including Lufthansa, WizzAir, Air France, Finnair and KLM, as well as Emirates Airlines in Dubai, have confirmed formally via their Twitter feeds that they are not flying over Eastern Ukraine, where the MH17 incident took place.
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Photo credit: Screengrab from live coverage at ABC News. ABC News