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Joint Statement on Risks to Civil Aviation Arising from Conflict Zones and Remarks from Tony Tyler at ICAO Press conference


IATA Press releases 29 Jul.14

To read the joint statement by ICAO and industry trade associations on risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones,
click on: Read joint statement (pdf)

Joint Efforts to Improve Safety
Industry and Governments Address Safety Over Conflict Zones


Montreal - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) joined with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) in a declaration committing the parties to review processes for the overflight of conflict zones. The high-level meeting was called by ICAO in the aftermath of the tragic downing of MH17 over the Ukraine earlier this month.

“The tragic shooting-down of MH17 was an attack on the whole air transport industry. The world’s airlines are angry. Civil aircraft are instruments of peace. They should not be the target of weapons of war. That is enshrined in international law through the Chicago Convention,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The declaration includes a commitment by ICAO, with the support of its industry partners, to immediately establish a senior level Task Force composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security issues arising from MH17. In particular, the Task Force will look at how relevant information can be effectively collected and disseminated. IATA will be among the participants on the task force.
Industry has also called on ICAO to address:

Fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry
The need to incorporate into international law, through appropriate UN frameworks, measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry
“We are asking ICAO to address two critical tasks. The first, and most urgent, is to ensure that governments provide airlines with better information with which to make risk assessments of the various threats they may face. The second is equally important but comes with a longer time frame. We will find ways through international law that will oblige governments better to control weapons which have the capability to pose a danger to civil aviation. Achieving these will make our safe industry even safer,” said Tyler.

Better Information:

Clear, accurate and timely information on risks is critical. “We were told that flights traversing Ukraine’s territory at above 32,000 feet would not be in harm’s way. We now know how wrong that guidance was. It is essential that airlines receive clear guidance regarding threats to their passengers, crew and aircraft. Such information must be accessible in an authoritative, accurate, consistent, and unequivocal way. This is the responsibility of States. There can be no excuses. Even sensitive information can be sanitized and still remain operationally relevant,” said Tyler. He noted that IATA stands willing to assist with the dissemination of such information.

A clear illustration of the need for such information was evident last week with respect to operations to and from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. “The Israeli authorities declared that the airport was safe. The US Federal Aviation Administration told its airlines they could not fly. And the European Aviation Safety Agency provided strong recommendations that European airlines should not fly. This is all far from the authoritative, accurate, consistent, and unequivocal information needed to support effective decisions on such an important issue. Governments must do better,” said Tyler.

Better Control of Weapons:

IATA and the rest of the industry called for controls on the design, manufacture and deployment of anti-aircraft weapons. “Weapons of war —including powerful anti-aircraft weaponry— are also in the hands of non-State entities. We have conventions that address chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, plastic explosives, and weapons trade generally. But there is no international law or convention to manage them as exists for many other forms of weaponry. MH 17 shows us that this is a gap in the international system which must be closed. Under ICAO’s leadership, I am confident that we can find ways within the UN system, to augment the international law framework to ensure that states fully understand and discharge their responsibilities in this regard,” said Tyler.

Safety Record:

In supporting the industry’s high expectations of the task force, Tyler also re-assured the traveling public that flying today remains safe and secure. “Every day about 100,000 flights take to the air and land safely. The systems supporting global aviation have produced the safest mode of transportation known to humankind. There is no need for major surgery. But we must identify and close some specific gaps in the system that, however infrequently, lead to unspeakable mistakes and tragedies,” said Tyler.


Remarks of Tony Tyler at ICAO Press Conference following High-level Meeting on Risks to Civilian Aviation Arising from Conflict Zones, Montreal

Good afternoon. Today we had an extraordinary meeting of the leaders of the air transport industry. We have come together in the aftermath of the tragedy of MH17 to find ways to make the air transport system safer and more secure.

The tragic shooting-down of MH17 was an attack on the whole air transport industry. The world’s airlines are angry—and I suspect that the same is true for each of the 3.3 billion people who will board aircraft this year. Civil aircraft are instruments of peace. They should never be the target of weapons of war. That is enshrined in international law through the Chicago Convention and other treaties.

The greatest respect that we can pay to the memory of those involved is to leave nothing unturned in our quest to understand the causes of these tragic episodes and to take every available measure to ensure that they are not repeated. And I have to say that we are enraged by the continued reports of obstacles being put in the way of those charged with performing this important task.

You have seen what is in our joint declaration. IATA—on behalf of its 240 member airlines—fully supports the important work that we have committed to. And we appreciate the urgency with which ICAO has called this meeting and will be setting up a Task Force.

I believe that we have made a great start. But of course the goal is to move from the framework that has been agreed today and deliver results. And I would like to spend a few minutes to discuss the results that the airline community is seeking.

There is no escaping that what happened to MH17 was a tragedy that should not have happened. And it exposed a gap in the system. The system is not broken. It works extremely well in the vast majority of cases. And the proof of that is clearly evident in that air transport is the safest mode of global mass transit known to humankind. So the challenge is to close the specific gap or gaps that allowed this tragedy to happen.

From the airline perspective, there are two expectations that I would like to highlight:
Airlines need clear and accurate information on which to base operational decisions on where and when it is safe to fly. In the case of MH17 airlines were told that flights above 32,000 feet that traverse Ukraine would not be in harm’s way. We now know how wrong that guidance was. It is essential that airlines receive clear guidance regarding threats to their passengers, crew and aircraft. Such information must be accessible in an authoritative, accurate, consistent, and unequivocal way. This is the responsibility of states. There are can be no excuses. Even sensitive information can be sanitized in a way that ensures airlines get essential and actionable information without compromising methods or sources. And, although I will repeat that this is a state responsibility, I can also commit that the industry is ready to assist in any way possible to help governments to make this happen.

This first expectation and gap to close I hope can be met in relatively short order. It is a top priority of all us here today.

There is a second gap that also must be filled, but which will have a longer time frame. There is no international law or convention that imposes on states a duty to manage the design, manufacture and deployment of anti-aircraft weapons. We have conventions that address chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, plastic explosives, and weapons trade generally. MH17 has demonstrated that powerful and sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry is in the hands of the non-state entities. Under ICAO’s leadership, I am confident that we can find ways within the UN system, to augment the international law framework to ensure that states fully understand and discharge their responsibilities in this regard.

For more information, please contact:
Corporate Communications
Tel: +41 22 770 2967
Email: corpcomms@iata.org

Notes for Editors:

IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 240 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic.
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