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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid