Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Fri March 18 2016

Europe Plans Its Own Conflict Zone Database for Airlines

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 18, 2016

Europe Plans Its Own Conflict Zone Database for Airlines

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A website built to track conflict zones throughout the world, built by the International Civil Aviation Organization to help airlines route around trouble spots, has drawn criticism due to infrequent updates and now European officials are taking matters into their own hands.

The site was built following the tragic 2014 incident in which Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile while flying over a conflict zone in Ukraine. Founded with the intention of helping airlines reroute flight paths around conflict zones, the website has drawn complaints from several officials for sporadic updates.

The ICAO is aware of these complaints and has promised to audit the site and make improvements if necessary. Despite these promises, representatives from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Commission have joined the IATA in calling for a new, better information sharing system.

They contend that there is “a need for an alternate information sharing and distribution process taking place at European level." The representatives from these various agencies have formed a task force to set up such a conflict database.

The goal is to create a common approach to assessing threat levels from conflict zones and then quickly updating information about these danger zones so that airlines have access to the latest warnings and can adjust their routes to avoid potential threats that have recently arisen. The task force also called for better information sharing between all EU countries.

READ MORE: What Are Officials Doing to Prevent Another Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

There are two different kinds of threats from current conflict zones. The first is a commercial jet getting caught in the crossfire of a conflict, which is essentially what happened to MH17, which was shot down by a missile in 2014 in Ukraine.

The other kind of threat comes from terror groups like those in Iraq or Syria getting control of anti-aircraft weapons and using them to deliberately target commercial airliners. This threat is what has European authorities the most worried, and it is the reason why they want to take intelligence and information sharing into their own hands rather than waiting for the UN to make improvements to their system.

Airlines often fly over conflict zones. However, they usually on do so when they think that local armed forces do not have weapons that are able to reach high altitudes.

The problem is that as conflicts shift, different armed groups could come into an area that was previously deemed safe for commercial flights. Also, some previously poorly-armed terror group could obtain better weaponry that could potentially reach 35,000 feet and be used to target an airliner.

So there would appear to be a need for a more aggressive and comprehensive information collection and sharing effort in the aviation industry. The EU task force thinks it can do a better job than the UN when it comes to addressing this particular issue. It looks like they will get a chance to prove it.

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