The decision to suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights in Cyprus’ airspace following Sunday’s deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash, will not affect the island, said senior flight safety official for the Civil Aviation Authority Andreas Paspallides.
Acting on instructions issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) in the wake of Sunday’s crash, the Transport Ministry said that it has from 9.00 pm on Tuesday suspended the operation of all Boeing 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX in its airspace.
Boeing 737 MAX groundings have spread around the world, with many countries suspending operations of the jet.
“The suspension of operations will only affect the companies that use this type of plane,” Paspallides said and added that in cases where these companies do fly to Cyprus they can use a different plane. “We don’t expect any negative impact on Cyprus,” he said.
He explained that only a few of the flights in Cyprus’ airspace were operated by Boeing 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX planes, usually by non-Cypriot airlines.
There are no planes of this type registered in Cyprus, he said.
“We are in direct contact with EASA, U.S. Civil Aviation as well as Boeing, in case something new comes up,” Paspallides said.
Cyprus complies with EASA instruction as decided on common regulations, he said.
Asked whether the instruction has a deadline, he explained: “We are waiting for the findings of an investigation into the cause of the crash. As of now, nothing has been confirmed about the crashes in Ethiopia and the one four months ago in Indonesia”.
Air travel is the safest mode of transport
Executive Director of the Mediterranean Flight Safety Foundation Christos Petrou called for calm and explained that air travel remains the safest mode of transport.
“We need to present the accident in the correct framework. There are around 120,000 flights daily which transfer millions people with safety. We shouldn’t forget this,” he said and added that the chances of an air accident are 1 in 1.5 million.
2017 was the safest year on record, with 16 accidents and 54 fatalities. That is 54 fatalities in 42 million flights.
“The number increased slightly in 2018, but air travel remains the safest mode of transport. In 2018, in Europe alone 30,000 people died in road accidents, compared to 500 in air accidents,” Petrou said.
He also urged EASA “to show the same sensitivity that it showed” towards the Boeing 737 MAX to the issue of Cyprus’ FIR and its violation by Turkish airplanes.
There are concrete examples and many institutions such as Eurocontrol, ICAO, EASA and the European Commission have admitted that there is a serious dangers to flight safety in the northern part of Nicosia’s FIR.
“The could show the same sensitivity and convince Turkey to do the bare minimum of restoring communication between the control centres of Ankara and Nicosia, which is the main source of the danger,” he said.
“To do this, as a state, we should approach international and European organisations to make them aware of the issue,” Petrou added.
Cyprus does not have a coherent strategy for this, he said. The Mediterranean Flight Safety Foundation is prepared to design this, at zero cost.
“No one will pay, we have the expertise and the experience to do this, if we’re asked,” Petrou concluded.