Global task force created after plane shot down

MONTREAL — The United Nations agency that governs civil aviation said Tuesday it is creating a task force aimed at improving security measures after the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine.

In an emergency meeting in Montreal, top officials from four international organizations discussed risks to civilian aviation in conflict zones.

The head of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency, said there is a pressing need for information and intelligence that can potentially affect the safety of passengers and crew members.

Countries, which have sovereignty over their airspace, have been reminded of their responsibility to address any potential risks to civil aviation, Raymond Benjamin said.

ICAO is convening a high-level safety meeting with its 191 member states in February 2015.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines; the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization; and the Airports Council International also participated in Tuesday’s meeting.

“This incident has identified a gap in the system that needs to be addressed,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general. Tyler said governments must do better.

“It has to be the government of that country that takes responsibility,” Tyler said. “If that country cannot declare its air space to be safe, then it should say so, and airlines will know that the air space is closed and they won’t fly over it.”

He said in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, airlines were told that flights that traverse Ukraine above 32,000 feet would not be in harm’s way.

“We now know how wrong that guidance was,” he said.

The Malaysia Airlines jet was destroyed on July 17 by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile as the plane cruised at an altitude of 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) above rebel-held battlefields in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people aboard were killed.

Tyler said MH17 has demonstrated that powerful and sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry is in the hands of non-state entities.

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