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MH17: ICAO to host conflict-zone information portal

ICAO is to host a prototype centralised system intended to provide information on conflict zones, enabling airlines to assess route risks in the wake of the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

But the organisation has also highlighted the difficulties of creating a reliable system and estimates it will cost some $2.5 million – around 3% of its annual $240 million budget – requiring “substantial contribution” from member states.

ICAO has detailed progress on the effort in a series of documents prepared for February’s high-level safety conference in Montreal. This effort has been led by a dedicated task force set up after MH17 was destroyed over Ukraine, probably by hostile action, last July.

The prototype web-based system will comprise a secure area through which authorised users and agencies can submit safety information, combined with a publicly-accessible site to display the data.

ICAO says that, along with the burden on its “scarce resources”, its hosting of the system demands that specific obstacles will need to be managed – notably the potential for users to supply public information which might be unreliable, inaccurate or contradictory.

The task force looked into using the NOTAM system as a platform from which to provide up-to-date risk notification.

But while this represents a “significant advance” on current practice, says the ICAO documentation, the task force believes the NOTAM system “does not always provide enough visibility” to ensure that those relating to conflict risks can easily be identified for particular flight scenarios.

Using NOTAMs will “not constitute a sufficient response” or a “completely satisfactory” method of disseminating information, it adds, and the task force is recommending the use of supplementary safety and security information.

“Further work remains to be done on determining what other types of information can be exchanged and how the sources of information may be verified,” it states, acknowledging that a number of legal and operational issues need to be resolved.

Pan-European air navigation organisation Eurocontrol has demonstrated to the task force its own prototype system for sharing conflict data.

Although ICAO is prepared to act as host, its role will be limited to making available original state-supplied information on risks to civil aircraft, and a disclaimer will need to be agreed which clarifies that the system will not be a substitute for countries’ notification and reporting obligations.

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