The shootdown of Ukrainian Airlines flight in Iran on 8 January had been viewed by many commercial pilots that the industry hasn’t learnt any lessons on operating over warzones, from the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, and for European skies there’s no effective system in place to reduce potential risks according to the European Cockpit Association. Unlike the FAA, in Europe EASA cannot prohibit European airlines from flying into or over conflict zone – it can only issue airlines a recommendation. In the case of the downing of the Ukrainian airliner, EASA did not issue a bulletin to EU airlines until 16 January, which warned operators against entering Iranian airspace. A few days later the FAA issued a NOTAM preventing US air carriers from overflying Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman. In Europe, the UK published a NOTAM advising their operators not to enter Iranian air space.
An international governing board that is willing to take responsibility for closing hostile airspace “is not something that shows any sign of happening soon,” said ECA President Jon Horne. The Brussels-based representative body of over 40,000 pilots from across Europe criticised the reluctance of outright useful refusal of EU’s member states to share any security data about conflict zones and called for a change in approval. “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 sufficiently to provide protection,” Horne said.
The ECA has agreed that an arrangement may not be perfect, although it insisted on a need for at least a temporary measure, which could hold current risk assessments on any new or potential armed conflicts.” Another option is if two at least two EU member states, or two major airlines decide not to fly through a specific block of conflict-affected airspace, all the EU states and airlines would then adopt this ruling until the situation got rectified.
But ECA General Secretary Philip von Schoppenthau stated that: “These ideas are neither conventional, ideal, or the only solutions”