Speed Reads

Flight 17

Why was the downed Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine, anyway?

On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine. But what was it doing there in the first place?

In April, the FAA prohibited U.S. airlines from flying over Crimea because of the conflict in the region. However, the FAA's concerns were related to air traffic control, not military action, USA Today reports — the FAA's yearlong ban is the result of a dispute over airspace between Ukraine and Russia.

The region specified by the FAA's order is south of where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed. While the FAA's rules only apply to U.S. airlines, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. subdivision, also warned airlines in April to avoid the region, according to USA Today.

However, Alan Yuhas at The Guardian says flying over conflict zones has been typical practice since the Ukraine conflict started. Here's a snippet of an anonymous pilot for a "major European airline," speaking to Yuhas' colleague Dan Milmo:

"We would often avoid areas where there is air-to-air conflict, but we flew over Iraq and Afghanistan when the British and U.S. armed forces were deployed there, because only one side was using military jets.

There will be weapons based on the ground when you are at 30,000 feet, but that is far up in the air. There are not many missile systems that can be so accurate." [The Guardian]

The pilot's statements imply that these assumptions about the capabilities of ground weapons "will have to be reevaluated, pending investigation of the crash," Yuhas says.

Update: The FAA released a notice on Thursday "barring U.S. flight operations within the Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk regions of Eastern Ukraine following the crash," Time reports. The new paths prohibited are in addition to the Crimean routes prohibited in April.