More on Flying Over War Zones

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I’m sure I was not the only one thinking about the practice of flying over war zones before MH17 was brought down on 17 July – check my posting from 8 July about flying north from Dubai over the ISIS disputed parts of Iraq on a Qantas A380.

Today Emirates have announced they will no longer be flying that route, instead they’ll fly further east over Iran and then turn west once they’re north of Iraq. Coincidentally that’s the same route they used to follow when things were really bad in Iraq during the US occupation. Here’s a photo I took in 2006 from an Emirates Airbus A330 as we flew west towards Turkey, I was looking south towards the mountainous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. ▼2006 11 20  - Iran-Iraq-Turkey Kurdistan region, EK 777 540

Plus, of course, there’s already been an airliner brought down over the Arab/Persian Gulf to the north of Dubai. That’s a route they’re all going to start on as airliners depart Dubai northbound. The trigger happy finger on that occasion was a US Navy one, they killed 290 passengers (including 66 children) in an Airbus in 1988.

Just a few months before 9/11 airliners began to fly over Afghanistan and in July that year, soon after the route started to be used, I sat up on the flight deck of a British Airways 747 as we traversed Afghanistan. If you asked nicely you could do that, back in the pre-9/11 era. In the subsequent decade-and-a-bit I’ve flown over Afghanistan many times, taken many photographs and not worried about it. Nevertheless the Taliban are a war-like mob and they’re directly below, although I guess the airlines all assume they haven’t got any serious missile capability? Afghan guerrillas did bring down a Russian AN-26 back in 1988, however. This photograph, from a Zam Air 737, was taken between Kabul and Herat in 2006. ▼FT - 2006 05 18 - Kabul-Herat, KA 737 540

More benignly for many years airliners were not permitted to fly over Cambodia and Vietnam, I remember making a number of flights with airlines like Cathay Pacific which departed Bangkok and then dog-legged south to skirt the countries before turning north-west to Hong Kong. It was a route that added considerable flying time.