The Belgian Cockpit Association (BeCA), the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) fully share the concerns expressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the forced landing of Ryanair Flight 4978 in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May. Pilots are concerned that the intervention of the Belarussian Air Force was enacted for political reasons, in contravention of the Chicago Convention, and amounts to an act of unlawful interference, bearing all the hallmarks of state-sponsored hijacking.
We are calling for an independent enquiry into this occurrence and an appropriate immediate response by safety and security authorities. This unprecedented act of unlawful interference will potentially upend all the assumptions about the safest response to bomb threats on flight and interceptions. Without trust and reliable information from States and Air Navigation Service Providers, handling both types of events becomes much riskier to manage.
IFALPA and ECA stress that the pilot-in-command always has the best overview of the actual situation on board and must be able to react according to the level of risk, regardless of external circumstances. Any measures taken by States to address a specific threat should enhance the crew’s ability to assess the situation thoroughly.
Any military intervention against a civilian aircraft constitutes a wilful hazard to the safety of passengers and crew. IFALPA and ECA urge States and the International Aviation Community to investigate and take swift measures against similar occurrences. We also call upon the airline to provide full support to the pilots and cabin crew on board, both during the future investigation and regarding their physical and mental well-being after such a challenging and stressful event.