The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has said it will be creating a task force on airline safety in light of the fatal downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over war-torn Ukraine. This, as the global aviation industry rallied that governments must relay or share intelligence information to avert future incidents on flying over war-zone declared areas.
Tony Tyler, head of the International Air Transport Association representing 240 global airlines, said what happened to Malaysia Airlines MH17 was "an attack on the whole air transport industry."
"And the world's airlines are angry," he said.
He said the fatal tragedy could have been prevented if only the global aviation industry was being truthfully guided on what's allowed and not. It is their moral duty, he stressed.
He said airlines were directed that flying over Ukraine was allowed and that no harm would happen as long as their altitude was above 32,000 feet. "We now know how wrong that guidance was."
And most unfortunately, Malaysia Airlines MH17 was not aware that pro-Russian separatist rebels were equipped with weapons capable of downing a jet at cruising altitude.
"Airlines need clear and accurate information on which to base operational decisions on where and when safe it's to fly," Tyler stressed.
Raymond Benjamin, ICAO Secretary-General, said there is a pressing need for airlines to be kept in the loop of information and intelligence sharing so as to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members whenever flying over warzones. ICAO's functions are limited, in that it cannot open or close airspace. Individual countries are basically responsible for their own airspace.
"Airlines do not have CIA operatives working for them. At the end of the day, airlines have to decide whether to fly or not based on accurate information," Reuters earlier quoted an unidentified source from a European-based airline industry. The lack of intelligence sharing, the source stressed, "does not make it easy for airlines."
Moreover, Tyler pointed out that civil aircraft should never be a target of weapons of war because they are instruments of peace.