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Two major U.S. air carriers that fly international — American Airlines and Delta — said they don’t operate in Ukraine and don’t have to reroute flights over a part of the country where a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed Thursday. Delta said it does have two flights that occasionally fly over the country, but not through the same eastern region where U.S. aviation officials barred commercial American flights in April. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a ground-to-air missile, according to a Ukrainian government adviser.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s so-called Notice to Airmen issued Thursday prohibits U.S. flight operations in the airspace over eastern Ukraine, including the entire Simferpol and Dnepropetrovsk regions. It expanded a prohibition of U.S. flights issued by the FAA in April over the Crimean region of Ukraine and adjacent areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. It did not extend to the area of the crash in the Donetsk region, where hostilities have flared between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists. “The action was taken due to the unilateral action by Russia to assert control over Crimean airspace, including international airspace administered by Ukraine without agreement by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” the FAA explained at the time. “This creates the potential for conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities and for the related potential misidentification of civil aircraft in this airspace.”
Aviation experts say it’s not unusual for commercial planes to fly over embattled regions because airlines rely on their jets being high enough to avoid most dangers. “Would planes have been routed over Iraq and Iran during Iraq/Iran war? The answer is no. But over Ukraine and Russia at this point? There was probably nothing that was done to avoid flying routes over the area,” said David Fuscus, an aviation consultant and president of Xenophon Strategies.
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