The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), met at ICAO's headquarters in Montreal yesterday.
Among those attending were president of ICAO, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO secretary general, Raymond Benjamin, IATA director general and CEO, Tony Tyler, ACI director general, Angela Gittens, and CANSO director general, Jeff Poole.
A joint statement, which was released by host ICAO, says the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the Ukraine was “unacceptable”, and it continues: "Our organizations wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic event.
“While aviation is the safest form of transport, the MH17 incident has raised troubling concerns with respect to civilian aircraft operating to, from and over conflict zones.”
The four aviation bodies met to urgently review the issues and potential responses to be pursued, and ICAO explains as a first step, states have been reminded of their responsibilities to address any potential risks to civil aviation in their airspace.
“We recognize the essential need for information and intelligence that might affect the safety of our passengers and crew.
“This is a highly complex and politically sensitive area of international co-ordination, involving not only civil aviation regulations and procedures but also state national security and intelligence gathering activities," the statement continues.
All parties to the discussion agreed that ICAO, a United Nations specialist agency, has an important role to play in working as urgently as possible with its member states.
In co-ordination with the aviation industry and other bodies within the United Nations, ICAO says it will aim to ensure the right information reaches “the right people at the right time”.
Moving forward, ICAO explains with support of its industry partners it will immediately establish a senior-level Task Force, which will submit findings as urgently as possible to a special meeting of the ICAO Council for action.
The group will be composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security aspects of this challenge, in particular how information can be effectively collected and disseminated.
Industry has called for ICAO to also address: fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry; the need to incorporate into international law; through appropriate UN frameworks; and measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry.
ICAO is convening a high-level Safety Conference with all of its 191 member states in February 2015, and concludes: “Industry and governments stand united and committed to ensuring the safety and security of the global air transport system and its users.”