UK & World News
Malaysia Plane Crashed In Air Danger Zone
Air crash investigators are examining why Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was flying so close to restricted airspace at the time it was downed.
The European aviation management agency, Eurocontrol, has confirmed that although the jet was flying in open airspace, it was just 1,000ft (304 metres) above closed airspace, which airlines had been warned not to fly near because of the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists.
The Boeing 777 airliner crashed near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, an area many commercial aircraft have been avoiding for months.
The jet was travelling at 33,000ft when it disappeared from radar approximately 50km (31 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.
The flight was lost at the TAMAK waypoint, where two air routes converge on the edge of Dnipropetrovsk airspace.
On March 5 this year, a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) advisory was issued to airlines, warning against flying within Dnipropetrovsk airspace because of the potential dangers posed by the ongoing conflict.
All US airlines and most European airlines have since avoided that airspace and another air corridor over Crimea, which is also deemed to be unsafe for civilian flights.
A senior aviation source told Sky News that European and US carriers have been increasingly avoiding these high risk areas, but some Asian airlines still route through this airspace.
He said: "Of course there are cost implications for airlines in having to route further north or south of these restricted areas, but passenger safety outweighs any cost concerns."
He added: "Although the safety advice is to avoid these areas, there is no ban on an airline taking such routes if they decide to. However, most Western airlines have decided it's simply not worth the risk."
The UK's Civil Aviation Authority has reiterated its advice to European airlines to avoid the area where MH17 was downed.
A CAA spokesman said: "The Ukrainian authorities are responsible for managing their airspace and the UK or other countries cannot enforce airspace restrictions in the area.
"However, the CAA has previously issued advice to UK airlines on operating in this area and following this incident, Eurocontrol has issued advice to airlines to plan routes that avoid the area."