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Friday, July 18, 2014

Ukranian Airspace Closed Following Malaysia Airlines Crash

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Aviation Today July 18, 2014] Ukranian authorities have informed Eurocontrol that the airspace where a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was reportedly shot down by an air defense missile during a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has been closed. Prior to the crash, the airspace in the Dnipropetrovsk Flight Information Region (FIR) had been closed from ground level to 32,000 feet. Malaysia's flight MH17 aircraft was flying at approximately 33,000 feet, which was an open level for aircraft in that FIR. 
"Since the crash, the Ukrainian authorities have informed Eurocontrol of the closure of routes from the ground to unlimited in Eastern Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk Flight Information Region). All flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected by Eurocontrol. The routes will remain closed until further notice," Eurocontrol said in a statement. Eurocontrol has also activated its European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell to lead a response to the impact of the airspace closure on flights throughout the region.
Malaysia Airlines has also released a statement following the incident, stating that its Boeing 777 was flying in unrestricted airspace. The crash is the latest incident involving a Malaysian Airlines aircraft, following the disappearance of MH370 from Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar tracking in March.
The Asia-Pacific region carrier said that it was aware of previous warnings from international civil aviation authorities regarding that airspace too. 
"The route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights. A flight from a different carrier was on the same route at the time of the MH17 incident, as were a number of other flights from other carriers in the days and weeks before," said Malaysian Airlines. 
MH17 had filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000 feet throughout Ukranian airspace, however Ukranian ATC instructed it to fly at 33,000 feet. The airline said that routes previously filed for that region will be diverted to flying further south over Turkey. 
Following the incident, the FAA issued an expanded Notice to Airman (NOTAM) that prohibits U.S. flight operations over Ukraine. This builds on a previous NOTAM issued in April. 
"This action expands a prohibition of U.S. flight operations issued by the FAA in April, over the Crimean region of Ukraine and adjacent areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. No scheduled U.S. airlines are currently flying routes through this airspace," the agency said. 
The FAA will re-evaluate the airspace closure at the end of October 2014.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council has called for a "thorough and independent international investigation" into the incident. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters during a news conference that the Netherlands will send accident investigators to the crash site. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will also reportedly be sending an investigator to Ukraine.  

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