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FR4978 ATH-VNO diverted, escorted to Minsk, alleged bomb threat – but was it?

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FR4978 ATH-VNO diverted, escorted to Minsk, alleged bomb threat – but was it?

Old 16th Jun 2021, 22:27
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Testimony from Michael O’Leary in front of parliament on the event. “O’Leary said the pilot was put under “considerable pressure” to land in Belarus instead of the more standard options of Poland or other Baltic countries.”

O’Leary testimony article
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Old 17th Jun 2021, 06:16
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BDAttitude

So if the aircraft had ACARS, and the Belarus ATC would have passed the same information about threat to aircraft via OCC, what would have changed then? Should the airline just ignore the threat message, because they can't trust the ATC of the country which their aircraft is currently overflying?

The solution here isn't in ACARS, it's in stop flying to/from and over countries where ATC is complicit in endagering aircraf - which is what has happened.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 13:05
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atakacs

So a bomb threat made against an aircraft full of passengers is not terrorism?

ATC can piss off in this situation. Any viable threat information against an aircraft will come from the company itself, not ATC.
If the MiG was visible, now you are out of luck as you must comply with the Pilot(not ATC), as per any manual I have ever read.

A bit more experience and the crew could have faked any number of emergencies to descend into their destination airport, especially considering it was the closest. Now there may not have been enough time to get a solid grasp of this situation, but there were still a lot of other possibilities to consider.
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Old 21st Jun 2021, 10:25
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Given that a passenger can get arrested for joking with airport security about a bomb in their baggage, then surely ATC in this instance were a few notches up the scale of terrorism.

They terrorised the crew effectively and should recieve the appropriate reaction from the international community
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Old 16th Jul 2021, 14:50
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Interim investigation by ICAO (from Organization website)

From the ICAO Council meeting on June 28, 2021.

"Interim report into incident involving Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Belarus airspace on 23 May 2021
1. The Council considered this item on the basis of a C-WP/15224, which presented the interim report of the fact-finding investigation team into the incident involving Ryanair Flight FR4978 in Belarus airspace on 23 May 2021. The Council was joined in its deliberations by representatives from the non-Council Member States of Belarus, Ireland, Lithuania, and Poland.

2. Following consideration, the Council:
a) recalled its earlier decision on this subject (C-DEC 223/2 refers) in which the Council had initiated a fact-finding investigation in order to determine the relevant facts of this event;

b) welcomed the preliminary information provided and recognising the constricted timeframe, expressed appreciation to the Secretariat for the investigative efforts undertaken, while at the same time acknowledging that the information and materials received to date remained insufficient for the purposes of definitively determining the facts and specific sequence of events;

c) took note therefore, that the investigation remained ongoing, and in this connection underscored that these efforts should continue to be carried out in a transparent and impartial manner;

d) reiterated the importance of establishing the facts of what had happened, and in this connection, expressed appreciation to those Member States that had conveyed documentation and materials to the investigation, and encouraged all relevant stakeholders to continue to collaborate with the investigation and to comply with ICAO’s requests for information in a timely manner; and

e) requested the Secretariat to present an updated report of the investigation at the first meeting of the 224th Session, which is scheduled to occur on 13 September 2021."
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Old 16th Jul 2021, 15:27
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Rarely does one witness a can being kicked down the road so eloquently.
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Old 16th Jul 2021, 16:33
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I read it Belarus did not provide data.
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Old 16th Jul 2021, 19:16
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Correct , not all the data requested that is , and I have heard the time table they gave does not match the timetable given by RYR/Ireland.
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Old 17th Jul 2021, 15:57
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The other two "bomb" smoke-screen calls that happened in the following months should be added to the table. Quacks like a duck, badly drawn image of "It's pranksters everywhere, hey look! Not our KGB!".
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Old 18th Jan 2022, 09:46
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ICAO report is out . not yet seen it .
https://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/...ir-FR4978.aspx
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Old 20th Jan 2022, 17:15
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Highlights of the fact-finding report are provided in a news article published in The Wall Street Journal, based on the news organization having reviewed the report. Insofar as can be found, the report isn't yet publicly available; presumably all ICAO Member States which currently hold seats on the Council have received it.

WSJ news article keys in on factual items pertinent to the bona fides of the "bomb threat" reported by Belarus ATCOs to the flight, or lack of such bona fides. Evidently the report does not draw conclusions; just the facts, ma'am. Yet the facts reported about details of emailed communications do, without elaboration, lead quite readily to reasonable inferences. The WSJ says the ICAO report, in addition to a timeline, sets out the most detailed and complete information on the incident to date. The report, it also is noted, identifies several items of information not provided by Belarus. And while justifications or excuses, or purported justifications and/or excuses, for declining to provide information or about its unavailability also are noted, again without elaboration, inferences seem readily to be drawn.

ICAO Council, 31 January in Montreal, could be other than a dry dull and boring, bland diplomatic affair. Perhaps the star power of the new United States Permanent Representative will liven the proceedings up?
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Old 20th Jan 2022, 17:43
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I have not seen the WSJ article but I read the report now . I am sure it will surface pretty soon as it was sent to 193 States and not all of them have clear policies to keep things out of the media. . It does not apportion any blame but reading between the lines you can see where the loopholes were everyone involved has some degree of responsibility, no one really comes out clean except the crew that was clearly a victim, procedurally let down by its own airline at a crucial moment they needed to communicate with them . the Belarus authorities have an excuse for everything but not much is convincing as they refused to provide any evidence ( e.g CCTV cameras recordings, telephone records etc..)
Number of International agreements and conventions were not adhered to by Belarus and Poland ( the State of registry of the aircraft ) is bringing this to court.
One thing debunked is the Belarus Mig 29 interception that clearly did not occur, even the Social media video "proving it " and used in this Forum here , was a fake one.( taken over Lithuania after the event) One more reason to treat social media videos with extreme care .
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Old 20th Jan 2022, 18:37
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5. CONCLUSIONS AND MISSING INFORMATION

5.1. As stated in paragraph 3.1 e) of its Terms of Reference, the FFIT was expected to "identify pieces of information potentially missing and that would be necessary to complete the investigation". As indicated in paragraph 1.5 above, some specific information, including critical information indicated in the Analysis section of this report as highlighted below, was requested but not made available to the Team. Considering the above, the Team's conclusions below are based exclusively on the information availed to it as of the time of this report.

5.2. According to the authorities of Belarus, a first email was received at 09:25 UTC (12:25 local) followed by a second email at 09:56:45 UTC (12:56:45 local), both containing identical information about the bomb threat. On the other hand, information obtained from Switzerland through the authorities of Lithuania shows that only the second email was sent to Minsk Airport at 09:56:45 UTC (12:56:45 local). The FFIT was not able to verify that the first email was effectively received at 09:25 UTC (12:25 local) as the authorities of Belarus did not provide logs of the email server airport.by nor the email files containing the threat messages saved in their original format including their metadata, citing their erasure in accordance with their data retention policy. The receipt of the first email is crucial to explain the basis for the communication of the bomb threat by Minsk ACC to the flight crew, which occurred at 09:30:49 UTC (12:30:49 local). In the absence of the first email, it could be presumed that the information about the bomb threat would have been obtained by the authorities of Belarus by other means, which the FFIT could not establish. If the first email was in fact received at Minsk Airport, the diversion of the flight to Minsk Airport could be considered to be a tenable option in view of the circumstances.

5.3. The FFIT could not corroborate the information provided by the authorities of Belarus regarding the transmission by phone of the contents of the threat email from airport personnel to Minsk ACC personnel leading to the notification of the threat to RYR 1TZ. As cellular phone records of the personnel involved documenting the time and duration of the calls and person or entity contacted were not made available, those statements could not be supported by evidence.

5.4. As neither a bomb nor evidence of its existence was found during pre-departure screening in Athens Greece and after various searches of the aircraft in Belarus and Lithuania, it is considered that the bomb threat was deliberately false. Knowingly communicating false information which endangers the safety of an aircraft in flight is an offence under Article 1 (1) (e) of the Montreal Convention. The Team was unable to attribute the commission of this act of unlawful interference to any individual or State.

5.5. The FFIT was neither able to meet with, nor interview the Minsk ACC controller who was assigned to the RYR 1TZ flight. The authorities of Belarus informed the Team that this individual did not report for duty after his summer leave and that they had no information on his whereabouts and no way to contact him.

5.6. The authorities of Belarus did not provide the FFIT information demonstrating that attempts were made to contact the Operator (RYR or RYS) for the purposes of meeting the obligations contained in Annex 11, 2.24.3 and Belarus ATM Aviation Regulations, 15.12.9. to exchange information with the operator or its designated representative.

5.7. Communications could not be established between the flight crew and the OCC during the flight when such communications would have been necessary in line with the operator's procedures. Had such communications between the flight crew and the OCC been established it would have impacted the course of events.

5.8. Video recordings from cameras located adjacent to aircraft parking stand 1 and inside the terminal which could have shown certain significant activities regarding the processing of passengers from the point of disembarkation and in the terminal building were not provided to the FFIT. Although short extracts of the said video recordings had been used in a documentary type video that was shared with the Team, the authorities of Belarus explained that not all recordings were available due to the length of time that had elapsed since the event. The FFIT was not provided with a satisfactory rationale to explain why records had not been preserved considering that criminal and other investigations in respect of the event had been initiated by the authorities of Belarus and had not been completed.

5.9. Inter flight-crew coordination conversations that led to their decision to divert to Minsk Airport could not be fully confirmed since the CVR circuit breaker was not pulled after landing in Minsk. As a result, the full flight-crew conversations, prior to the period when the aircraft was on short final to Minsk Airport, were not preserved.

5.10. From the evidence provided by Belarus, no escort or intercept occurred between the MIG-29 and RYR 1TZ and no communications by the MIG-29 was recorded on the radio channels used by RYR 1TZ. According to information provided by the flight crew and cabin crew, there was no communication, interaction, visual sighting or other knowledge of military aircraft involvement with the flight.

5.11. Some of the States connected to the event have issued formal requests to other States for information and assistance in connection with criminal and other investigations into the event. Such investigations could assist in establishing any missing facts relating to the event. In this regard, States and entities that have received such formal requests should be encouraged to respond as appropriate.
https://www.politico.eu/wp-content/u...t_FR497849.pdf
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Old 21st Jan 2022, 03:02
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Lawyers, diverted flights, and escorts that weren't

Four Belarusian officials have been indicted in this incident, according to a news item in The Wall Street Journal. The indictment was filed by federal prosecutors in New York and unsealed on 20 January. It alleges conspiracy to fabricate a bomb threat as well as conspiracy to cover-up the fake threat. Reportedly the indictment alleges unlawful acts of air piracy, and refers to or relies upon violations of international norms, U.S. criminal law, and endangering the lives of four U.S. citizens who were on the flight.

Although the article includes names of the four officials, I'm not including those here. But one is said to be Director General of the state air navigation authority, another the deputy director general, and the other two, members of the "state security service."

The Journal dtyly notes that the defendants remain at large. Neverless, the potential for an incendiary ICAO Council meeting at the end of this month seems likely to have been increased.

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Old 21st Jan 2022, 05:51
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Not a law scholar but does US grants itself universal legal sovereignty (bit of a rethorical question, I know that it acts as such, but is it formally in US law) ?

I'm actually impressed by the report, they went into lots of efforts to establish the facts (which are, as usually, far from the the initial press coverage). Interesting to see what will come of it in the next ICAO meeting.
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Old 21st Jan 2022, 20:27
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Originally Posted by zambonidriver
...does US grants itself universal legal sovereignty...
No it does not (at least not on paper...). However there were four US citizens on board, thus the crime was committed against US interests on a territory that is the equivalent of 'high seas' (according to the Chicago convention overflights without landing do not enter the jurisdiction of the overflown state) permitting persecution in US courts.
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Old 1st Feb 2022, 14:47
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IFALPA and ECA Advisory

Press Release issued today. It is being posted here, in that the incident involving Belarus airspace, first of all was - or was scheduled to be - on the agenda of ICAO Council yesterday January 31, and secondly, given that military and diplomatic issues at the present time include or involve Belarus.
Press release is quoted verbatim (comments by this SLF/attorney follow).

MONTREAL/BRUSSELS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) are highly concerned with the situation of heightened tensions in Eastern Europe.

The situation appears comparable to that of summer 2014, which led to the tragic downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

In hindsight, we know that in 2014, both the open and closed source intelligence information were far from accurate. The risk of misidentification was underestimated, and for these and other reasons, many risk assessments resulted in a false sense of security which led to the decision to continue to overfly the area.

The current situation now expands over a much larger area. IFALPA and ECA are extremely concerned that the same false sense of security might arise again. They call on States and operators to carefully consider the lessons that should have been learned from MH17. States should not hesitate to take appropriate measures, such as closing down their own airspace or banning the overflight of high-risk areas.

In case of doubt, always choose the safest option. The safety and security of the passengers and crew should be of paramount importance.
_______

Noteworthy is the direct reference to the tragic incident of MH17 as a major premise for context for this statement by IFALPA and ECA. Without meaning to suffer thread drift within just a single post, the lack of effective sanctions against parties responsible and/or liable for the destruction and fatalities caused in the MH17 incident -- that lack of sanctions continues as a stark background to safety concerns in this quasi-conflict zone. Even the laudable effort by ICAO, especially what appears to be an unprecedented fact investigation delegated by Council to Secretariat, so far has given little or no indication of forward-looking sanctions with regard to Belarus. A slap on the wrist does nothing when the misbehaving party (even when referring to an ICAO Member State) gives plentiful indications that its next behavioral problem will involve anatomical counterparts with heavier force. All the more so in a situation where the threats to safety of civil aviation operations appear, on essentially all available evidence and information, to be both urgent and credible.
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Old 2nd Feb 2022, 07:02
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Willow, ICAO is not the security council of the UN , it is a technical agency issuing standards and recommended practices, not sanctions. The words used in the Chicago convention are " foster planning " and "encouraging aircraft operations for peaceful purposes" not to pass judgement or apportioning blame . The FR /Belarus report goes as far as they can go.
It is up to individual States to take the court cases and the sanctions parts in case of major issues , like Netherlands does for MH 17 or Canada for the Air Ukraine , or in this FR case, Poland . .
The IFALPA/ECA press release was drafted just to prevent a repeat of those times where basically profit goes before caution in flight planning overflights of conflict zones. It was not related to FR/Belarus.
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Old 3rd Feb 2022, 14:54
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ICAO Press release :Montréal, 31 January 2022, – In the first meeting of its 225th Session today, ICAO Council member States considered the ICAO Secretariat’s Report on the Fact Finding Investigation into the events surrounding the diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 on 23 May 2021.

Also taking part in the discussions were official representatives of non-Council States considered to have a special interest in the proceedings namely, the Republic of Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ireland.
A point of convergence from States’ discussions included the Council’s appreciation to the ICAO fact finding investigation team for the exhaustive analysis undertaken, and the high quality of the report it produced.

The Council expressed concern at the gaps in information provided by Belarus and the inconsistences contained in the evidence available at the time of the investigation in relation to crucial aspects of the factual reconstruction of the events, and highlighted that the bomb threat against FR4978 was deliberately false and had endangered the safety of an aircraft in flight.

The Council further recalled that communicating false information which endangers the safety of an aircraft is an offence under the Montreal Convention, and in this connection, strongly condemned such practices.
In light of some newly emerging information relating to the FR4978 events and timeline, the Council requested the ICAO investigation team to continue its work with a view to establishing the missing facts, including in connection with the related ongoing criminal and other investigations, and to report to it any further findings.
Additionally, the Council called upon all Member States and other relevant stakeholders, to continue to collaborate with the ICAO investigation, and requested the President of the Council to eventually forward the final Fact Finding Investigation Report to the United Nations Secretary-General
Strongly worded statements against an ICAO member State, things are moving slowly against Belarus .
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Old 20th Jul 2022, 03:19
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Attribution by ICAO - July 19 2022

Montréal, 19 July 2022 – The ICAO Council concluded its discussions yesterday on the May 2021 incident in Belarus airspace involving Ryanair Flight FR4978, condemning the actions of the Government of Belarus in committing an act of unlawful interference.

The latest updates to the ICAO fact-finding investigation report into the incident benefited from new information and materials following the Council’s initial consideration of the report in January 2022, as well as an interview and audio recordings from the Minsk air traffic controller assigned to the flight.

Following its consideration of the completed fact-finding results, the ICAO Council acknowledged that the bomb threat against Ryanair Flight FR4978 was deliberately false and endangered its safety, and furthermore that the threat was communicated to the flight crew upon the instructions of senior government officials of Belarus.

The Council Representative for the Russian Federation meanwhile expressed his State’s strong objection to identifying Belarus as the source of the unlawful interference which took place.

The Council expressed appreciation to the ICAO fact finding investigation team for its strenuous efforts and comprehensive analysis and reiterated its condemnation of the communication of false information endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight is an offence under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal Convention).

The Council also recalled that the use of civil aviation in this manner contravenes the spirit of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), in particular its Preamble and Article 4.


In terms of next steps, the Council has directed ICAO to convey the FR4978 report findings to all ICAO Member States, to report the infractions of the Chicago Convention by Belarus to the ICAO Assembly during its upcoming 41st Session (27 Sept. – 7 Oct. 2022), and to post the report for public and media access on the agency’s website.

It further requested the President of the Council to forward the fact-finding investigation report, and the Council’s related decisions thereon, to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for consideration and any appropriate action.
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