UK Daily Mail: Pilots protested flight path, but were ordered to continue
Commercial airliners were avoiding Ukraine in general and the conflict zone in particular. Flight MH17 had avoided the conflict zone where it was shot down on it’s ten previous flight paths. When Malaysia airlines scheduled it to fly over the conflict zone, pilots and crew protested. Two crew members even swapped shifts! However the plane was ordered to fly over airspace where multiple military aircraft had recently been shot down.
Two cabin crew swapped shifts so they would not be on the doomed Malaysian airliner downed by a missile in eastern Ukraine, after raising concerns about the safety of flying over the war zone.
Other senior pilots and cabin crew had flagged up fears about the flightpath in the weeks leading up to the tragedy, although Malaysia Airlines last night denied ignoring crew concerns.
Some staff are reported to have refused to fly over the airspace where the passenger airliner was downed because they deemed it to be too volatile and dangerous, especially after two Ukrainian planes, a fighter jet and a transport aircraft, were shot down by rebels.
According to well-placed Malaysia Airlines sources, at least two cabin crew swapped shifts so they would not be on MH17, specifically because they were worried about the flightpath. The Mail on Sunday has been told worried pilots consulted air traffic controllers in Malaysia and also made an informal approach to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). But still Malaysia Airlines did not divert the route, unlike other carriers.
British Airways as well as all US airlines, Lufthansa, Air France and Qantas, were already avoiding the war zone in Ukraine, adding an extra 20 minutes’ flight time, and there is growing pressure on Malaysia Airlines to explain why it did not follow suit.
Asiana Airlines, another company avoiding the war zone, said: ‘Although the detour adds to flight time and cost, we have been making the detour for safety.’ Last night, civil aviation analyst Chris Yates backed up the pilots’ concerns, saying: ‘My view is that wherever there is a conflict zone, then above that conflict zone the airspace should be closed.
‘Any time that you have civil strife or military strife ongoing in a military area, my opinion is that airspace should be closed until the situation clears up. Why take the risk? The bottom line is: Passengers on flights need to stay safe.’