ICAO has clarified the legal framework governing the roles and responsibilities of states, airlines and international organizations relating to risks to civil aviation.

The UN’s agency for international civil aviation said it was issuing the clarifications following several misinterpretations that surfaced after the release of the final report into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile.

The various European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) advisories—mainly revisions of previous warnings regarding potentially unsafe airspace—were issued prior to the Oct. 31 crash of Metrojet’s Airbus A321 over Sinai.

Among the ICAO clarifications:

  • Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), only states maintain sovereign authority over their airspace, with responsibility to issue risk advisories regarding any threats to the safety of civilian aircraft operating in their airspace.
  • States also have authority to close their airspace where safety threats may require it.
  • Aircraft and airline operators are responsible for assessing global airspace risks communicated by States, and/or third parties, before deciding where they fly.
  • ICAO does not possess the authority to over-ride sovereign States in order to close their airspace or reroute airline traffic.
  • With respect to conflict zone risk specifically, recommendations to assist states and airlines with a more effective means of sharing risk information were already proposed by the 2014 conflict zone risk task force which ICAO established, immediately after the loss of MH17.

EASA’s recommendations include circumnavigating the Simferopol FIR in eastern Ukraine.

They also advise of potential danger to aircraft flying below 25000 ft. in the Karachi and Lahore FIRs of Pakistan due to presence of dedicated anti-aircraft weaponry.

Operators are advised not to enter Yemeni airspace due to anti-aircraft weaponry in the country, with the exception of three specific airways; and aircraft should maintain heights of not less than 26,000 ft. over Somalia.