My must read of the day is “Why airlines didn’t avoid risky Ukraine airspace,” in the Associated Press:
In the hours after Thursday’s disaster involving a Malaysia Airlines jet, carriers around the globe began rerouting flights to avoid Ukraine. Some had been circumventing the country for weeks. Experts questioned the airline’s decision to fly near the fighting, even as Malaysia’s prime minister said that the plane’s route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was declared safe by international aviation authorities.
“I find it pretty remarkable that a civil airline company—if this aircraft was on the flight plan—that they are flight-planning over an area like that,” said Robert Francis, a former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. […]
Rerouting planes around war zones costs airlines money, as the planes burn more expensive jet fuel. Aviation expert Norman Shanks said many airlines continued to fly over Ukraine despite warnings because it offered a shorter route that saved money on fuel.
Greg Raiff, an aviation consultant in New Hampshire, said that if airlines must avoid flying over all the world’s hot spots, flight times would be extended, requiring extra fuel and pilots. That might make some routes uneconomical, forcing airlines to abandon them.
I have many questions about this horrific event, and I’ve tried to answer them all in my head. For most of my questions, I can find some logical, though speculative, answers. It doesn’t excuse what happened, but it makes me think we could soon have a better understanding of events.
The question I cannot begin to comprehend or explain is why any airline was flying over airspace that was known to be unsafe and shooting down planes. Nothing about it makes sense. Perhaps they can’t avoid every “hotspot,” but one would think the news that rebels claimed to have hit “a Ukrainian military jet with a portable surface-to-air missile,” earlier this week, was a red flag for this particular hotspot.
The idea that airlines aren’t avoiding the airspace of places with ongoing fighting is baffling and cost still doesn’t explain it for me.