We often say that continuing to improve the industry’s safety performance requires collaboration among stakeholders from across the aviation spectrum, including manufacturers, operators, regulators, training organizations, air navigation service providers and airports. A big part of that collaboration involves data collection and analysis, and information sharing. The sharing of information on the security situation in various countries or regions of the world may not spring readily to mind when aviation safety professionals think about data sharing, but it should.
Recently, the Dutch Safety Board released a report that said that in the five years since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a surface-to-air missile, airlines and regulators have become better at gathering information about flying over conflict zones. The report referenced initiatives launched by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Aviation Safety Agency and several states to better assess and manage the risk of flying over areas plagued by armed conflict. The Board also said that airlines now play a more active role in gathering information about the risks that conflict zones pose to civil aviation, that risk assessments are performed in a more structured manner and that some airlines take uncertainties and risk-increasing factors into consideration as part of the risk assessment process.
But, according to the report, there is more to be done. States involved in armed conflict, with the exception of Ukraine, have not implemented conflict zone overflight restrictions. Also, some airlines have indicated that the information they receive about conflict does not always have the level of detail necessary for them to perform an adequate risk assessment. In addition, there are obstacles to sharing non-public information that need to be overcome.
It’s clear that in this area, as in aviation safety broadly, it is imperative that the parties involved — in both government and industry — continue to work to develop and maintain open and effective lines of communication that will enable operators to conduct meaningful risk assessments and make sound decisions based on those assessments. As the Dutch Safety Board said in its report: “Vital to this is the willingness of parties to actively inform each other about threats and potential threats, in order to protect civilians and passengers across the world.”