News / Middle East

Malaysia Airlines Flight Over Syria Reflects War Zone Challenge

Swedish flight tracking service Flightradar24 AB posted a flight map on its Twitter account on Monday showing the change in the route of Malaysian Airlines flight MH4, which flies from Kuala Lumpur to London.
Swedish flight tracking service Flightradar24 AB posted a flight map on its Twitter account on Monday showing the change in the route of Malaysian Airlines flight MH4, which flies from Kuala Lumpur to London.
Reuters

Malaysia Airlines rerouted a flight over Syria on Sunday after its usual path over Ukraine was closed, reflecting the challenges airlines face in finding conflict-free routes between Asia and Europe.

After Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down Thursday by a ground-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine, airlines began to avoid the airspace above where the Ukrainian military has been fighting Russian-backed rebels.

Swedish flight tracking service Flightradar24 AB posted a flight map on its Twitter account on Monday showing the change in the route of Malaysian Airlines flight MH4, which flies from Kuala Lumpur to London.

Flight tracking data showed this flight had previously crossed over eastern Ukraine.

Syria is in the middle of a civil war in which 170,000 people have died since 2011.

Fredrik Lindahl, chief executive officer of Flightradar24 AB, said it was relatively unusual for transcontinental flights to cross Syria.

“With Iraq you always see aircraft flying there. There is no other way to access parts of the Middle East than to use the Iraq corridor,” he said.

“But you don't see Syria so often. We saw no other trans-continental flight that went through Syrian airspace yesterday.”

Some regional traffic uses Syrian airspace including a Middle East Airlines flight bound for Beirut on Monday, according to the Flightradar24 website.

Malaysia Airlines said MH4's flight plan was in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) approved routes.

“As per the notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, the Syrian airspace was not subject to restrictions,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement. “At all times, MH4 was in airspace approved by ICAO.”

ICAO, which said last week it had no operational role and did not have the authority to open or close routes, did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Monday.

Kenneth Quinn, a former chief counsel at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and secretary of the U.S.-based Flight Safety Foundation, questioned the wisdom of flying “over hotly contested territory” but said he was not aware of a credible threat against airliners flying in Syrian airspace.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airlines, one of the world's largest airlines, said it was difficult to avoid flying over conflict zones on main routes between East and West.

Airlines assume that when a flight plan is accepted in controlled airspace, it is safe to fly on that particular route, Clark said on Sunday. There may have to be changes in the way the industry assesses such risks in light of the MH17 disaster, he added.

Hundreds of flights routinely crossed over Ukraine before Thursday's incident, and it is not unusual for international airlines to fly over war zones such as Afghanistan.

John Saba, a lecturer at McGill University's Integrated Aviation Management Program in Montreal, said he did not think the Syrian government would fire missiles at airliners.

“The question is: who has access to these [missiles] and what is the range?” he said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, whose regulations are among the world's strictest, “strongly discourages” U.S. operators from flying to, from or over Syria, according to a May 2013 notice on its website. 

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

update Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs