Russia, politics aside, should have closed Sinai to its Commercial Aircraft for Safety Reasons

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It sounds familiar somehow—a powerful nation experiencing a horrible death of its citizens and the government immediately tries to point to possible causes other than the obvious.

Here are the quotes from the Washington Post article, which clearly are intended to support President’s Putin’s preferred accident explanation:

  • “A Russian airliner carrying more than 200 passengers crashed in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula.”
  • “Russian officials announced Saturday that they had opened an investigation for gross negligence and safety violations that may have led to the crash. In a statement, Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was searching the Moscow offices of the airline, Kogalymavia, which flies under the brand Metrojet, and the airline’s facilities at Domodedovo International Airport. Airline employees would be interviewed and the quality of fuel used by Metrojet on its flights would be examined.”

Here are the comments which may, may not, point to a conclusion that ISIS was retaliating to Russia’s intervention in Syria:

  • “Egyptian and Russian officials on Saturday denied claims the jihadists shot down the plane, which had climbed to 31,000 feet before plummeting to the ground. Surface-to-air missiles can normally hit aircraft flying below 10,000 feet, analysts say.”
  • “Europe’s two largest airlines said they would not fly over Sinai, which is home to a violent Islamist insurgency, until investigators determined the cause of the crash. Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate claimed Saturday that its fighters downed the Airbus A320 to avenge Russian strikes on insurgents in Syria, but the group did not say how they brought down the plane.”
  • “Security experts say the militants are known to have surface-to-air missiles that could take out low-flying aircraft.”

The phenomenon of hostile fire bringing down civil aircraft, sadly, is not an unheard of international incident. Russia clearly knew about the MH 17 tragedy and was aware of the risks of flying in airspace over an unstable political conflict.

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Not yet mentioned in much of the press or from the talking heads are the following plausible hypotheses:

  1. Shot down by another aircraft perhaps by an air-to-air missile
  2. Explosive decompression
  3. On board bomb detonation
  4. Total fatigue failure
  5. TWA 800 fuel cell explosion

So what did Russia know about the Sinai and what did it do or not do with that admonitory information?

The UN organization with jurisdiction over global aviation safety and security is the International Civil Aviation Organization. Under its umbrella of duties, ICAO offers a less-than-ideal website, the purpose of which is to identify “conflict zones.” The following information has been posted there for over six months:

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The United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany have also signaled their substantial concerns about the Sinai:

State Affected Reporting State Information Source Type Information Title Valid From Valid To
Egypt United Kingdom NOTAM POTENTIAL RISK FROM ANTI-AVIATION WEAPONRY 2015-09-08 2015-12-06
Egypt United States NOTAM United States Advisory NOTAM for U.S. Operators Regarding Operations over Egypt-Sinai Peninsula 2015-03-30 2016-03-30
Egypt Germany NOTAM Security – Egypt – potentially hazardous

Russia’s lawyers might have carefully read the ICAO disclaimer, which absolves the international body from any and all liability, thus diminishing both its reliability[i] and credibility. Clearly ICAO needs to strengthen its warning, but equally clearly Russia did NOTHING.

There may have been something with the quality of Metrojet’s fuel and the Russian Intergovernmental Aviation Committee has postulated potential issues with A-321s. Either, both and possibly other problems may be the reasons why this plane crashed.

That said, there was no good reason for the Russian government to continue to allow its commercial aircraft to continue to fly over this zone.

[i]DISCLAIMER AND EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY

The purpose of this site is to compile in a centralized and recognized location certain information promulgated by States regarding risks to civil aircraft arising from conflict zones.

The act of posting information to this site does not alter, fulfill, or replace States’ reporting and notification requirements, or other similar obligations, as provided by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, its Annexes, or any other applicable instruments of law. This site may be used in conjunction with other information sources and is not to be considered as a sole source of information for undertaking risk assessments related to conflict zones.

This site is informational in nature and its contents are made available without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. The information on this site is restricted to submissions from ICAO authorized users based on publicly available sources; however, ICAO does not warrant that the contents are accurate, valid, reliable, complete, comprehensive, correct or up-to-date, that this website will be available at any particular time or location, that any defects or errors will be corrected, or that the content is free of viruses or other harmful components.

ICAO shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, or loss of programs or information) that result from the use or inability to use such site, or from the use or non-use of the information provided herein, in particular for, but not limited to, errors or omissions in the contents of the website, consequences of its use or non-use, or inaccurate transmission or misdirection.

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2 Comments on "Russia, politics aside, should have closed Sinai to its Commercial Aircraft for Safety Reasons"

  1. IATA agrees that there is a need to improve the quality of ICAO conflict zone–http://associationsnow.com/2015/11/air-transport-group-stronger-conflict-zone-threat-sharing-needed/

  2. Egypt’s response to the UK’s canceling flights to the Sinai demonstrates why the ICAO website has its flaws. Here’s a country which was the locus of a tragedy and it appears to be ignoring the risks.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/metrojet-ordered-cease-airbus-a321-operations-egypt-condemns-britains-travel-ban-2170549

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