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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid