FAA expands Ukraine flight restrictions

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expanding restrictions on U.S. airlines flying over Ukraine, where a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down on Thursday. 

The agency had previously barred U.S. airlines from flying near Crimea, where Ukraine has been locked in a border dispute with Russia since April.  

Late Thursday, the FAA expanded the restricted zone to all of eastern Ukraine after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 295 passengers onboard, was shot out of the sky.


“On the evening of July 17, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting U.S. flight operations until further notice, in the airspace over eastern Ukraine, due to recent events and the potential for continued hazardous activities,” the agency said in a statement. 

“The restricted area includes the entire Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk flight information regions,” the FAA continued. “This action expands a prohibition of U.S. flight operations issued by the FAA in April, over the Crimean region of Ukraine and adjacent areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.  

“No scheduled U.S. airlines are currently flying routes through this airspace,” the statement added. 

The downing of Flight 17 has roiled the aviation industry and heightened tensions between Russia and U.S. and European officials. 

Ukrainian officials alleged on Thursday that the flight was shot down by pro-Russian separatists who are fighting Kiev for greater autonomy.

Vice President Biden suggested that the plane had been intentionally downed, saying during a speech Thursday afternoon that it had “apparently” been “blown out of the sky."

Lawmakers in Congress have begun calling for punishment against Russia if the link is proved.

Airlines had already begun avoiding flying over Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the incident. 

Malaysia Airlines officials said Friday that the flight's path was cleared before its take-off. 

“MH17’s flight plan was approved by Eurocontrol, who are solely responsible for determining civil aircraft flight paths over European airspace,” the airline said in a statement. 

“The route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights,” the company continued. “A flight from a different carrier was on the same route at the time of the MH17 incident, as were a number of other flights from other carriers in the days and weeks before. Eurocontrol maintains records of all flights across European airspace, including those across Ukraine.” 

However, after the Thursday airplane shooting, Malaysia Airlines said it was now redirecting all its flights around Ukraine completely. 

“Following this incident, Malaysia Airlines now avoids Ukrainian airspace entirely, flying further south over Turkey,” the company said.