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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs