Court to rule on Cargolux pilot who refused Iraq overflight

London
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Lawyers will submit final arguments shortly in the case of a Cargolux pilot who was fired after declining to overfly Iraq on safety grounds at a time when an official warning of a heightened threat from surface-to-air missile attacks was in force.

The freight carrier terminated the contract of first officer Hein Floden after he refused to operate a flight to Dubai in April 2007 if he had to fly through Iraqi airspace as was flight-planned.

Floden, a Norwegian Boeing 747-400 pilot who is being supported by the Luxembourg pilots union ALPL, had raised the issue in 2003, but matters only came to a head on the Dubai flight. In letters to Cargolux managers he said he would operate flights to the region as long as they were flight-planned to avoid Iraqi airspace, but he says the airline responded with "an absolute no".

At the time a warning issued by the Regional Air Movement Control Center was in force stating: "Operators undertaking flights within the Baghdad FIR shall do so at their own risk! There are continuing reports of indiscriminate missile attacks on aircraft operating in Iraq, primarily at low altitudes, but occasionally at high altitudes."

Floden says: "When there is set before me a conflict between flight safety on one side and commercial gain on the other, I ask Cargolux to respect my decision for flight safety, to not overfly Iraq as long as the safety warning is in effect. Should Cargolux have information that clearly nullifies the safety warning, then I would accept to overfly Iraq without hesitation."

ALPL president George Carambolous adds: "A lot of pilots were concerned, but not everybody actually happened to fly there because there were only two flights a week."

Cargolux declines to comment while the case is under way, but says: "Cargolux strongly reminds that it has always complied and will continue to comply with all the national and international provisions and regulations governing commercial air transportation."

The court will reconvene on 14 October.