Air Transport World editor calls for airshow boycott over MH17


In a move that is nothing short of brave, aviation trade media publication Air Transport World’s executive editor Karen Walker has proposed that airlines boycott air shows where surface-to-air missiles are sold, in the wake of the devastating downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 yesterday.

Air Transport World is owned by Penton Media, which also owns Aviation Week, one of the aerospace industry’s most prominent defense publications. Aviation Week has a significant presence at virtually every major air show, including this week’s Farnborough air show.

Writing candidly in a blog post for Air Transport World, Walker says:

I’ve been working this week at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. International airshows are a regular part of the air transportation and aerospace calendar; they generate huge media interest and are both symbols of prestige for their host nations and conduits for billions of dollars of trade. 

But the irony of this week’s events is that on the one hand, we have seen many of the world’s airline top executives attending Farnborough to complete and sign huge new airliner and engine deals at ceremonies in front of the world’s press.

And on the other hand, all around them are companies who make the kind of weapons that are now suspected of bringing down one of their own. Indeed, there are actual exhibits of those types of weapons at Farnborough, which opens to the public this weekend. In truth, these airshows are also arms trade fairs.

So I propose that airline executives join together and boycott airshows for as long as they are inclusive of both airliner makers and airliner destroyers.

It may be a crazy idea, but it’s nowhere as crazy as the shooting down of an airliner. And it’s one that would give airlines a chance to demonstrate they will no longer permit their aircraft, passengers and crew to become needless, innocent victims of war.

Thus far, Walker’s thought-provoking piece has received a largely positive response on social media. And indeed Aviation Week has just tweeted a link to the post, so it is clearly comfortable with it, which is impressive considering its coverage of the defense sector.

Responding to a RGN tweet on the subject, aviation consultant Robert Mann says, “Military aircraft alongside civil transports, no problem. But anti-aircraft weapons systems, no way.”

Air Canada spokesman John Reber notes, “Air Canada hasn’t attended airshows in years. Dialogue with manufacturers [is] ongoing, deals announced as concluded.”

Will all airlines heed this call?