Dubai: Should future passenger jets carrying several hundred people be fitted with anti-missile gear to avoid a Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17-type tragedy?
The US may have toyed around with the idea at the turn of the century, but such a solution is flawed and impractical, said a senior aviation official.
Emirates president Tim Clark has said the notion of fitting airliners with missile-avoidance device to evade the same fate suffered by MH17 over eastern Ukraine’s skies is a non-starter.
“Some people say planes should be armed with counter devices. That will go absolutely nowhere," Clark told Reuters in an interview. "If we can't operate aircraft in a free and unencumbered manner without the threat of being taken down, then we shouldn't be operating at all.”
The strongly-worded response from the head of the world's largest airline by passenger numbers was confirmed to Gulf News by an Emirates spokesperson.
The idea of an anti-missle retrofit caught traction when a shoulder-fired rocket struck an Airbus A300 cargo plane upon takeoff from Baghdad in 2003. Post-MH17, the idea was once more raised.
A Bloomberg report shows the US spent $239 million to look into the feasibility of arming commercial planes with missile-avoidance system. But the bill to retrofit the US commercial airline fleet alone was estimated to top $43 billion over a 20-year period, the report showed.
Clark has strongly urged commercial carriers to agree on a response to MH17’s downing.
"The international airline community needs to respond as an entity, saying this is absolutely not acceptable and outrageous, and that it won’t tolerate being targeted in internecine regional conflicts that have nothing to do with airlines," Clark told Reuters.
He called for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to gather the industry to agree on changes needed to enable the aviation industry to tackle regional instability. Clark said IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN body, could take action.
"If you go East to West or vice-versa between Europe and Asia, you are likely to run into areas of conflict," Clark said. "We have traditionally been able to manage this. Tripoli and Kabul were attacked, Karachi was attacked and we have protocols and contingencies and procedures to deal with this," he said.
"That was up until three days ago. Now I think there will have to be new protocols and it will be up to ICAO and IATA and the aviation community to sort out what the protocols have to be."
Clark said he was "incandescent with rage" when he heard about the downing of MH17 and its nearly 300 passengers over eastern Ukraine.