Who else was flying through Ukraine Airspace?
You may be surprised...
An interesting graphic from http://www.spiegel.de/ that claims to show the air traffic through Ukraine airspace in the 7 days prior to the loss of MH17.
Why was MH17 flying over the Ukraine War Zone?
I have received this question more than any other. While I am not in a position to provide an answer, I can provide some insight into the risk-assessment process that many airlines around the world employ.
An airline’s network is under constant scrutiny in both commercial and operational terms. When political unrest or natural disasters occur, they impact upon the ability to conduct civilian airline operations not only into destinations, but entire regions. When a volcanic eruption occurred in Chile in 2011 its plume was swept around the world and grounded aircraft in distant Australia.
For such an event, teams of specialists will gather and assess the situation. They will make the difficult decision to ground flights if need be, or re-direct them elsewhere. They will continue to monitor the situation to ascertain when flight operations can resume. It is an involved process that can be commercially damaging and inconvenient for passengers, but tough decisions are rarely without fall-out.
I am proud to say that the airlines I have been associated with over the last 20 years have all been very thorough and conservative in the interests of safety. I am sure that they have paid a commercial price at times, but it re-affirmed to me that the safety of their passengers and crew REALLY was their first priority.
I am unaware of the risk-assessment processes involved in the case of MH17. Firstly, according to the airline, the aircraft was in airspace that had been deemed safe to fly in by both the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA). They were well within their rights to operate in the airspace and were not alone in choosing to do so.
However, some of the factors to be considered were undoubtedly the restricted airspace below the route and the reason for that restriction and the warnings that had been issued regarding operations in the region. These warnings had prompted other airlines to avoid the Ukraine airspace. There is also the apparent shooting down of other aircraft in the area and the feasibility of flying alternate routes.
As I said, I am unaware of the risk assessment procedures that were employed by the airline. The fact that the airspace is now closed and void of civil activity gives some indication of how it is now regarded. Undoubtedly there were real threats to consider prior to the loss of MH17 and that flight through the area may have been legal, but one must wonder whether it was prudent?
Rest in Peace MH17.