Vice-President Kallas convenes EU aviation crisis cell to ensure full coordination
"I would like to say again that we are all deeply shocked by the crash of the Malaysian Airlines plane in Ukraine, with the tragic loss of so many lives. Our deepest condolences go to the families of the victims.
What is needed now is an immediate and independent investigation into the causes of the crash. I call on everyone concerned to participate and to be ready to do whatever they can to help in this essential task.
In practical terms, this means that the investigators need unimpeded access to the crash site, and of course to the "black boxes", the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Public trust demands a fully transparent and open procedure.
I have activated the EU aviation crisis cell so that there is proper coordination of the effects on airspace to guarantee the safety of flights. I would like to reassure air passengers that it is safe to fly.
But I completely understand now that the public is hungry for facts. The facts in terms of what has happened to MH 17 must be laid open for global public scrutiny.
And if it becomes clear that this crash has been caused deliberately, if MH17 has been shot out of the skies without regard to the deaths of so many innocent civilians, those responsible will be brought to justice."
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) sets out a number of rules governing the investigation of accidents. Article 26 of the Chicago Convention says in particular that "in the event of an accident to an aircraft of a contracting State occurring in the territory of another contracting State, and involving death or serious injury, or indicating serious technical defect in the aircraft or air navigation facilities, the State in which the accident occurs will institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident, in accordance, so far as its laws permit, with the procedure which may be recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The State in which the aircraft is registered shall be given the opportunity to appoint observers to be present at the inquiry and the State holding the inquiry shall communicate the report and findings in the matter to that State."
There are then a number of standards and agreed practices set out in Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention, including:
- that the accident investigation authority shall have unrestricted authority over its conduct, including relating to the gathering and analysis of all relevant information at the crash site
- that the investigator-in-charge shall have unhampered access to the wreckage and all relevant material, including flight recorders and ATS records, and shall have unrestricted control over it to ensure that a detailed examination can be made without delay by authorized personnel participating in the investigation
- that participants have the right to: visit the scene of the accident, examine the wreckage, obtain witness information, etc, etc
- that the state carrying out the investigation shall arranged for the read out of the flight recorders without delay
- and that a preliminary report shall be made within 30 days, and generally should be made public.
The European aviation crisis coordination cell (EACCC) was first introduced during the Icelandic volcano crisis in 2010. It is co-operated with the Network Manager of EUROCONTROL to coordinate the management of crisis response in the European Air Traffic Management Network in close cooperation with states. It is convened by meetings or teleconferences with representatives of the Commission, Eurocontrol, the Presidency of the EU, EASA, the military, ANSPs, airports and airspace users, augmented as necessary by experts and others such as the Ukrainian authorities in this case. All issue relating to crisis mitigation policy are discussed, agreed, and approved as necessary by the EACCC. It has met so far twice since the crash of MH 17 on 17 July.