News / Middle East

Is Air Travel Safe?

Dror Heitner, left, walks with his wife Rinat Heitner, right, and their 16-year-old son Ori Heitner toward a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport, July 22, 2014, in Newark, N.J.
Dror Heitner, left, walks with his wife Rinat Heitner, right, and their 16-year-old son Ori Heitner toward a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport, July 22, 2014, in Newark, N.J.
Victor Beattie

Despite last week’s downing of a Malaysian jetliner over eastern Ukraine with the loss of all on board, aviation experts insist air travel worldwide remains, by far, the safest mode of transportation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice to Airmen Tuesday, banning U.S. carriers from flying to or from Israel's Ben-Gurion airport, after a rocket strike  1.6 kilometers from the airport perimeter earlier in the day.  The European Aviation Safety Agency Tuesday also issued a Safety Information bulletin that strongly recommended airspace users refrain from operating to and from the Tel Aviv airport.

Delta Airlines Flight 468, en route from New York to Tel Aviv with 290 passengers and crew, was diverted in mid-flight Tuesday to Paris.

"Delta had to do what Delta had to do.  It’s quite unfortunate that we were literally an hour before landing in Ben-Gurion," saidi Daniel Leon, who was aboard that flight.  "But, I respect the decision, right.  I mean, they’ve got some rules that they have to obey, and they explained to us why they were doing it.  There was a bit of confusion on the plane earlier on.  But, I think, we’re on the ground now, they were extremely helpful."

No security problem

Israeli authorities insist there is no security problem.  Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said there was no reason to cancel flights and, "yield to terrorism".

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was traveling to Tel Aviv on El Al Airlines Tuesday to show solidarity with the Israeli people and prove the airport is safe.  He called the flight restrictions a mistake that, in "hand Hamas an undeserved victory."

In Washington Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the FAA notice is aimed at ensuring public safety, not a political statement directed at Israel over its operation against Hamas militants in Gaza.

A departure board at the Philadelphia International Airport shows that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled, July 22, 2014.A departure board at the Philadelphia International Airport shows that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled, July 22, 2014.
x
A departure board at the Philadelphia International Airport shows that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled, July 22, 2014.
A departure board at the Philadelphia International Airport shows that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled, July 22, 2014.

"I would note that, in 2012, the (State) Department also issued travel warnings for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in March, August, and December," Harf said.  "So, this is a step we have taken when we felt the situation on the ground warranted it.  Obviously, that is a process that we go through that in no way is policy-related or politically-related. It is just related to how we can best protect American citizens.

"The FAA makes these decisions when they feel it’s warranted, again, for the safety of United States citizens," she added.  "And they, in response to the recent attack at Ben-Gurion Airport, in the vicinity of Ben-Gurion Airport, after consultation with U.S. operators, felt today that it was important to issue this notice."

Malaysian Airlines Crash

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.
x
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.

Concern about airline safety also follows last week’s downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in which all 298 people on board perished.  U.S. intelligence suggests ill-trained pro-Russian separatists using a sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missile are responsible.

Aviation consultant Scott Hamilton of Leeham Company says the FAA directive is not unusual.

"The FAA has been issuing no-fly zones for quite a while and, in fact, since the Malaysian (MH17) shoot down, there have been a number of maps that have shown up on the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that have identified where there are no-fly zones or restricted-area fly zones that the FAA has issues," Leeham said.  "And, some of those go back years, if not decades, Somalia, for example, northern Kenya.  Those have been in existence for quite some time."

The FAA has also imposed restrictions on U.S. flights over Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia and Ukraine.  It identifies as potentially hostile regions Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Iran, Kenya, Mali, Syria and Yemen.

Safe to fly

Airline Captain John Cox, who is also chief executive officer of the Washington-based aviation consulting firm Safety Operating Systems, insists, despite these recent incidents, including the March disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, it is very safe to fly commercial aircraft.

"In spite of the tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and the Malaysian Flight 370, it has never been safer to fly," he insisted. " We flew 3.3-billion passengers last year.  We had the lowest fatality rate in recorded history.  These tragedies do not change the fact of the safety of our aviation system.

Cox acknowledges that sophisticated weaponry like the SA-11 air-defense system in the hands of non-military groups is very concerning.

"The failure to correctly identify that airplane (MH17) was unconscionable, it was inept," he said. " Never in history have we had a surface-to-air missile rise to a cruising altitude of a commercial jet, over 30,000 feet (9100 meters).

Cox says such missile systems are not in great numbers and there will be a concerted effort to block out passage over airspace in areas where open conflict occurs.  And, he says aviation organizations, including manufacturers, regulators and operators all employ robust safety management systems to minimize exposure to potential hazards in flying. 

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: R.B.Dagne from: Sweden
July 25, 2014 4:28 AM
Hi, within five months four passengers flight incident have occured which is very sakering to fly.

by: meanbill from: USA
July 23, 2014 11:58 AM
The airlines became unsafe flying into war zones, when the thousands of Qaddafi shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles from Libya, were given to the enemies of Syria.... (and now others?).... and only God knows, who's hands they are in now.....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs