As fingers point at Malaysia Airlines for allowing flight MH17 to fly over a war zone, a German weekly news magazine has revealed that Singapore Airlines jets flew over the same eastern Ukraine area 75 times in the past week.
In contrast, MAS planes only flew over rebel-held Donetsk 48 times within the same period, Spiegel Online reported, citing flight tracking website flightradar24.com.
It said Russian airline Aeroflot flew over the area 86 times in the past seven days, Ukraine International Airlines 62 times, and Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa, 56 times.
“Overflights were recorded here in the past seven days in a radius of nearly 240km to the Ukrainian industrial city.
“In the ranking of the airlines, MAS is at fifth place with 48 overflights… the data shows that the region of Donetsk experienced brisk air traffic,” said Spiegel Online.
“Whether the attack (against MH17) was a random act or even a mistake, it could have, therefore, happened to the planes of various other international airlines.”
MH17 was flying at 10,060m – 300m above restricted airspace – over eastern Ukraine when it was shot down, killing all 298 people on board.
UK’s the Daily Mail reported that while the airspace flight MH17 was flying in when it was shot was not restricted, airlines had been warned about the potential dangers.
Putrajaya, however, defended the flight path taken by MH17, saying Malaysia had not been informed by any quarter that it was unsafe.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said commercial airlines from 15 Asia-Pacific countries also used the same flight path.
MAS said in a statement yesterday flight MH17 had requested to fly at 10,600m over Ukrainian air space, but was instructed by the country’s air traffic control to fly at 10,060m instead.
“Before the crash, Ukrainian authorities restricted the airspace up to 9,700m, according to Eurocontrol,” said Spiegel Online.
“At higher altitudes, however, there was no restriction on the civilian air traffic.
“Only after the downing of flight MH17 was the airspace completely blocked.”
A spokesperson from Lufthansa, Thomas Jachnow, told Spiegel Online the airline regularly flew over eastern Ukraine up until Thursday.
On Thursday, after MH17 was shot down, four of Lufthansa’s flights were diverted, said Jachnow.
During a press conference yesterday, foreign and local media pressed Liow on why MH17 had taken a flight path over a known conflict zone, and whether Malaysia was prepared to assume responsibility for MH17 taking that route.
“Malaysia Airlines has been flying this particular route for many, many years and that is the reason why MH17 had taken this flight path," Liow said.
Liow dismissed the idea that MAS was trying to save costs on fuel by taking the route, saying that 15 out of 16 Asia-Pacific airlines still used that route. – July 19, 2014.