Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

Pilot-Journalist Assesses Culpability in Malaysia Airlines Disaster; Obama Pushes for Access to Crash Site

President Barack Obama on Monday morning denounced Russian-backed separatists for blocking the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines flight which was shot down last week over eastern Ukraine. He demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin press the separatists to “stop tampering with the evidence” and to give investigators, including some from the United States, “unimpeded access to the crash site” for flight MH17.

As the geopolitical struggle over the shooting down of the Boeing 777 continues, it’s worth reading the analysis that journalist and pilot James Fallows did Saturday on the question of whether Malaysia Airlines was to blame for routing it over an area where fighting was taking place.

Fallows argues that “the entire aviation system works on the premise that unless airspace is marked as off-limits, it is presumptively safe and legal for flight.”

The airlines “rely on regulators to tell them where they cannot go,” he said, noting that “even during wartime, airliners have frequently flown across Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Malaysia Airlines, Fallows argues, was “neither cutting it razor-close nor bending the rules, but doing what many other airlines had done, in a way they assumed was both legal and safe.”

Fallows concludes by saying “air transportation, like most other modern systems, could not operate if it fortified itself against every conceivable peril.”

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