SAA Cargo has been engaging with the Department of Environmental Affairs on the issue. PICTURE: Leon Nicholas

Cape Town - It will be business as usual for SAA flights after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down over the Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board, because the airline does not travel over the war-torn country.

Airline operators around the world imposed a no fly-zone over the country on Thursday. About three months ago some airlines were warned to avoid the airspace above the country.

However, with none of the international flight associations declaring the country a warzone, the Ukraine was still a normal part of many flights from Europe to Asia up until Thursday, said Air Line Pilots’ Association SA president and SAA pilot Marius Santos. He said a passenger plane being shot down over a war-torn country was not common. “In my 35 years I can only think of a few incidents similar to this.”


Santos said in his experience flying for SAA, he has never encountered a no-fly zone.

“It’s up to the International Civil Aviation Organisation who might declare an airspace as a warzone. Sometimes a particular airline might do a risk-assessment of an airspace and find that the chances of something happening in the airspace is fairly high.”

Santos, who has military flying experience, said it was definitely not a stray missile that took out the plane.

“We are talking about a serious weapon here.”

The missile launcher would have had to track the fast moving plane by radar before unleashing the heat-seeking projectile.

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