In the wake of last week’s downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in Iranian airspace, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) on Saturday issued a call for all countries to adhere to guidance surrounding civil aircraft flight through conflict zones.
“The shooting down of a civilian aircraft operating in civilian airspace, whether mistaken or not, represents a flagrant violation of international law and an irresponsible attack on the safety of international civil aviation. Under established International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidance, it is the responsibility of the state civilian aviation agency to close its airspace and provide timely risk information to airlines during military conflict,” said FSF president and CEO Hassan Shahidi. “Iran’s civilian authority appears not to have followed the guidance, which would have prevented this tragic outcome.”
FSF noted the Iranian government’s claim of the unintentional shooting down of the Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 that resulted in the loss of 176 lives on January 8. Iran officials on Saturday said the aircraft was mistaken for a cruise missile during the heightened tensions.
FSF pointed to other military conflicts resulting in similar tragic outcomes, including the U.S. Navy’s mistaken downing of Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf that killed 290 people in 1988. Following the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014 while flying over Ukraine, an international task force on civilian aircraft operating in conflict zones convened and led to ICAO in 2015 clarifying guidance on roles and responsibilities for states, airlines, air navigation service providers, and other stakeholders during times of conflict to enable information sharing that could maintain safe operations. “The Flight 752 tragedy underscores the importance of adherence to this guidance by every stakeholder,” FSF said.
The foundation added the international community must reaffirm its commitment to protecting civilian aircraft.