U.N. agency wants speedier aircraft threat warnings: sources

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 25, 2016 6:33 PM

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The U.N.'s aviation agency wants to cut the time it takes to issue warnings about credible threats to aircraft on a website it launched after the 2014 downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The International Civil Aviation Organization is reviewing its nearly year-old conflict zones website, which has been criticized for taking too long - up to 72 hours - to post advisory warnings about threats to aircraft.

Airlines have pushed for accessible, up-to-date information on risks to civil aviation after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in July 2014, killing 298 people.

A proposal to eliminate the 72-hour period, a delay countries can use to review and respond to the advisories in advance, will be presented to ICAO's council in May, said one aviation industry source, who was not authorized to talk to media.

"ICAO will no longer have to hold critical information while waiting for a state to respond," added a second source, who also requested anonymity.

But China, Russia and Bolivia have already raised concerns about the existing site, even before the proposed change. They have said the site risks being hijacked for political motives because states are allowed to post about each other's affairs, said a third source, who sits on the ICAO council.

An ICAO spokesman said an agency review group recognizes the need to make it easier to post information in a timely manner but said he was unable to confirm specific details about the proposal.

Industry groups, some of which run their own information-sharing sites, said the ICAO website and threat information repository could be a one-stop shop for aviation intelligence but more states need to contribute warning notices.

“We hope that when the quality is sufficient and the information is comprehensive ... we can use the ICAO repository as one source to feed our site, rather than having to look at 10-15 other places,” said Zarko Sivcev, adviser to the director of the European air traffic network manager Eurocontrol.

Tony Tyler, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, which represents the majority of the world's airlines, on Thursday called the ICAO repository a "good start.

"Clearly, the governments need to step up and actually populate it with useful information," said Tyler at an aviation conference in New York.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin and Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)