EU regulators call for intelligence sharing on air safety risks

BRUSSELS, Sept 3 Wed Sep 3, 2014 12:16pm EDT

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BRUSSELS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - European safety regulators called on Wednesday for better coordination of information about threats to aviation after the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in July.

The destruction of MH17 by a missile suspected by Ukraine and the West of having been launched by pro-Russian rebels has raised questions about the quality of information available to airlines flying over conflict zones.

"We are proposing to set up a European alert system to process information about conflict zones and make recommmendations to airlines," Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, the aviation regulator for the 28-nation European Union, told Reuters.

"We can't do it alone but would have to be supported by some sort of access to military intelligence," he said, adding this could be channelled through the existing security activities of the EU's External Action or foreign affairs service.

Ky and other aviation leaders were questioned by members of the European Parliament's transport and tourism committee, several of whom were unhappy about a lack of clear responsibility for warning airlines that airspace in eastern Ukraine was at risk.

Under the current system, each country is responsible for advising airlines and other nations about the safety of its own airspace and Europe's safety and air traffic control authorities have little power to override national advice.

Ukraine had closed its airspace up to 32,000 feet but MH17 was flying in open airspace just 1,000 feet higher when it was shot down on July 17. A total of 298 passengers and crew, most of them Dutch, were killed.

But it had not provided reasons for the restriction and the head of Eurocontrol, a pan-European agency responsible for coordinating traffic flows in 40 countries, said countries should share the risk assessments behind the routine Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) designed to guide pilots through skies safely.

Officials rejected repeated calls by members of the European assembly to order airlines to publish routes for each flight, saying this would raise complex legal issues and that plans could be changed for many reasons even in mid-flight. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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