UN-led air safety task force to report by end of September

7th August 2014, Comments 0 comments

The head of the UN aviation agency said Thursday that a task force set up after the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine will have six weeks from mid-August to recommend safety measures.

Raymond Benjamin, the secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), said the group will include around 40 people from "all the segments of the aviation sector", including pilots and air traffic controllers.

The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee as well as Interpol will also be represented. The group will meet for the first time in Montreal from August 14-15.

"They will have to work very quickly. They will have around six weeks to come up with a certain number of recommendations," Benjamin told a press conference during an official visit to Singapore.

ICAO on July 29 announced the formation of the task force to study ways for better dissemination of flight risks over conflict zones after the Malaysia Airlines plane was blown out of the sky in eastern Ukraine.

All 298 people onboard flight MH17 were killed when it was shot down in rebel-held territory on July 17.

The United States accuses insurgents of downing the Boeing 777-200 jet with a surface-to-air missile likely supplied by Russia, while Moscow and the rebels blame the Ukrainian military.

Benjamin, who was in Singapore for meetings with local civil aviation officials, said he did not believe the task force would suggest the ICAO take on a supervisory role over countries' sovereign airspace.

"I do not believe that the recommendations will say states are no longer sovereign over their airspace and ICAO will decide who flies where," he said.

"What we are looking for is how we can enhance the current system," he added. Currently, individual countries have full control over their own airspace. ICAO has no powers to open or close airspace.

Airlines make decisions on their flight routes based on their own independent assessments as well as that of their respective home countries' civil aviation authorities.

"What the airline industry wants... is to be provided with credible information on what are the risks, and then they can take a decision," said Benjamin.

He admitted that the ICAO will face challenges in implementing reforms as they have to be agreed by all of the group's member states.

Some states do not have the ability to fully assess the safety of their airspace, while others "are very reluctant to assess the situation because they want to seek the benefit of overflight charges", he said.

© 2014 AFP

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