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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid