Safety of flight routes overflying conflict zones demands constant attention

In its report ‘Safe flight routes. Responses to escalating conflicts’, the Dutch Safety Board issued five recommendations to further improve the safety of flight routes. The Safety Board concludes that the recommendations have adequately been followed up. For four of five recommendations, the first steps taken by the various stakeholders are promising. However, flight safety in relation to conflict zones demands constant attention and further development at national, European and international level.

Risks flying over conflict zones better controlled

The Dutch Safety Board conducted the investigation ‘Safe flight routes. Responses to escalating conflicts’ in response to a request from the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management to reflect on the recommendations from the MH17 Crash Report. In the investigation the Board issues recommendations focused on improving the risk assessment method, developing criteria for closing airspace above conflict zones, accelerating the sharing of information and decision-making at a European level, and enabling the Dutch government to advise airlines on or to prohibit them from overflying conflict zones. By implementing improvements on these four levels, the risks of overflying conflict zones can be better managed so that passengers and crew can rely on a safe flight.

Not expanding possibilities issuing a flight prohibition political consideration

In its first recommendation, the Safety Board urges the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management to consider expanding the possibilities for the Dutch state to also issue advice, and as the ultimate remedy, to impose a flight prohibition for Dutch operators in foreign airspace. In his comment, the minister shows that various factors were carefully considered.  The Board concludes that the decision to not expand the instruments are primarily the result of a political consideration, and finds the minister's reaction partly unsatisfactory.

The first steps that the parties have taken to implement the other recommendations are promising. It is important that they continue to make efforts to further complete the follow-up to the recommendations.

Refer to the investigation page ‘Safe flight routes. Responses to escalating conflicts’ for the report, the recommendations and the responses.