International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Month: March 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Pavlof Eruption wreaking havoc, Brussels Airport remains closed: Midweek Briefing 30MAR

Pavlof Eruption wreaking havoc 30MAR16 Volcano Pavlof erupted on Sunday and is currently on aviation colour code ‘RED’. It has caused havoc for North Pacific, Alaskan and Northern Canadian operations. The latest predictions have the ash upwards of FL400 and extending over Northern Alaska and Canada. You can find the latest information through the Alaskan VAAC.

Brussels Airport remains closed 30MAR16 EBBR is still closed with the possibility of opening later this week. Currently all commercial flights are still prohibited from operating into EBBR. Only ferry, emergency, SAR, State, general aviation and cargo flights are authorized with a slot that can be coordinated through the Belgium Slot Coordination website.


EZZZ/Europe The U.S. State Department along with numerous other countries have issued a Europe wide travel warning in response to the attack in Brussels. While extra vigilance should be exercised it is also a very generic response to a threat that has yet to fully understood from a commercial aviation perspective. If you would like to be kept up to date on specific travel alerts from the U.S. State Department you can sign up through their STEP program.

FAA/United States there have been 583 reported hazards from Aug 22/2015-Jan 31/2015 between aircraft and Drones. None of these incidents have caused any collisions or damage but extra vigilance must be exercised until the FAA can regulate the use of these drones in the terminal areas.

RPHI/Manila has issued an advisory for aircraft operating in the vicinity of the Bulusan Volcano and the Kanlaon Volcano due to an alert level 1 of activity. Flights operating in the vicinity are advised to avoid flying close to the summit.

LFXX/France a general strike has been declared for March 31st. Possible impact to airline operations. Please make sure you check with Eurocontrol or FIR NOTAMs for further restrictions.

FXXX/Nigeria The NNPC or Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has stated that steps are currently being taken to end the countries fuel shortage but may take upwards up 2 months. Please check with local handlers for the availability aviation fuel supply until the issue is resolved.

LXXX/Turkey has issued a nationwide terror alert and the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau has advised for all of it’s citizens to leave the country. Extra vigilance should be exercised if operating to and from Turkey for the foreseeable future.

UXXX/Russia has stated that aviation authorities are intensifying it’s inspections of aircraft from Russian and International budget carriers in wake of the Rostov-on-Don accident.

DGAC/Ghana FIR issued NOTAM A0128/16 due to VHF freq 130.9 being not reliable for all Oceanic traffic entering ACCRA FIR from the South East due to maintenance. All traffic must contact ACCRA on HF 8903KHZ or logon to ADS-C/CPDC “DGAC” until positive VHF contact is established.

VNKT/Katmandu There have been a few reports that the Tower at VNKT has been reporting erroneous weather to pilots. One example of such a report  was “Tower informed us that there was some 3 km of visibility this morning but it to be less than 1.5 km while Kathmandu was engulfed by haze”. If you encounter any issues while operating into VNKT please send us a note to

VIAR/Amritsar has suspended all night operations for 1 year due to the planned reconstruction of the airports runways.

VTBD/Bangkok Officials approved an expansion that will allow for more aircraft, passengers and vehicle parking. The plan also includes provisions to cut landing fees during off-peak hours at VTBD and VTBS in an effort to increase usage of both airports. The project includes plans to extend the runway, add office buildings, and create additional parking zones for aircraft. The expansion is expected to be completed in 2025.

Angola The Ministry of Health in Angola has reported an ongoing outbreak of yellow fever in Luanda Province. The government of Angola requires all travelers older than 9 months to show proof of yellow fever vaccination on arrival. The CDC has a ‘Watch Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions’ advisory in place.

FAA/United States has issued Advisory Circular 00-30C. It describes the various types of CAT (Clear Air Turbulence) along with avoidance techniques and possible future forecast systems for helping Dispatchers and Pilots in the planning stages for proactive flight planning.

View the full International Bulletin for 30MAR2016

Cheapest Jet fuel on the Atlantic? $1.15 a gallon

The cost of a gallon of Jet A1 has been rather unstable lately. Over the last couple of years, we’ve produced several versions of our  North Atlantic Plotting Chart, and as we’ve done so, the price of Jet A1 has dropped each time across the Atlantic seaboard.

So, where is cheapest? Answer: Keflavik. $1.15 for a gallon of Jet A1 at the best available commercial airline rate. Now, that was six weeks back or so, when we did the research for the chart, and prices have been rising since (tracking the Oil price pretty well).


Next best on the list is Shannon, Ireland – $1.37 USD/USG, thanks to the Shannon Free Zone, which strips out most of the taxes that the EU levies as standard.

Next question, then: most expensive? Narsarsuaq, at $5.65 for a gallon. Why so much more? Primary reason: getting the fuel to BGBW is an awful lot harder than getting it to BIKF. The rest is down to the difference in government tax policy.

Fuel price is of course not the only tech stop or diversion consideration on the North Atlantic, but given that security, safety, and service quality is pretty much equal across the entire NAT region, it’s an important factor – along with the cost of handling.

If you look at the snapshot above, you can see that your G550 will cost around $1685 including Airport Fees; taking a B787 to KEF will run around $4300 all in.

The North Atlantic Plotting Chart has all this information for all the common North Atlantic ETOPS/Diversion Fields – namely: CYYT/St Johns, CYQX/Gander, CYJT/Stephenville, CYYR/Goose Bay, CYFB/Iqaluit, BGSF/Sondrestrom, BGBW/Narsarauq, BIKF/Keflavik, EGPF/Glasgow Intl, EGAA/Belfast, EINN/Shannon, and LPLA/Lajes.
Download NAT Plotting Chart

Take a close look at this chart. Notice anything strange?

On second thoughts – let’s ask another question, that might be easier: Notice anything familiar? I’ll venture a guess: probably not. This is a North Atlantic Plotting Chart from the 70’s (hauled out of the Flight Service Bureau archives), and it’s the area just west of the Shannon FIR, at 20W. Busy place, back in 1973.

So what are we looking at, exactly? Most of the coloured lines are LORAN lines (dashed ones indicating the station is only receivable at night); but there is also a range ring for the BUSHMILLS (MWN) Consol Navigation Station on the North coast of Ireland (long since gone).

Shannon FIR 1973

Most interesting is the waypoint marked JULIETT. It’s 52’30N and 20W: Officially known as an Ocean Station Vessel (OSV), this was a Weather Ship operated by the UK and the Netherlands and permanently in position. It was used back in those days to take regular radiosonde readings, collect weather reports, act as a radio beacon (NDB on 370Khz), and provide Search and Rescue (SAR) cover.

There were 10 such ships on the Atlantic; A through E operated by the US coast guard; and I through M by the Europeans.


Howard Cox, in “Ocean Weather Ships”, writes: “Light aircraft were reasonably frequent ‘visitors’ on their delivery flights to the UK or Europe. Without exception there was always something not working –VHF but no HF or vice versa, no heating, no DF and so it went on. I remember one occasion when we were on Juliet when we were requested by Shanwick Oceanic Control to keep the ships navigation beacon on continuously and to keep a continuous radar watch on from a certain time. An aircraft being ferried to Europe via the UK had taken off from Gander and lost his radio compass before he had even reached the US Coast Guard cutter manning Ocean Station Charlie.”

Cox continues, “They had brought him over the top of them using their radar, ‘set’ the radar beam in the direction of Juliet and guided the pilot as far as they could along the beam till out of range. We did likewise when he reached our part of the ocean, setting the beam in the direction of Shannon Airport in Ireland and guiding him along that until he passed out of range. In the meantime Shannon did the same when he got in range of them. He was lucky, he made it, crossing the Atlantic courtesy of three radars!”

The value of the SAR function of these ships was proven in the Pacific 1956, when about 1200 miles west of San Francisco Pan Am flight 6 ditched after a double engine failure with no fatalities; all 44 people on board survived thanks to Ocean Station November, which is where this photo was taken from.


Our next look at old charts will be this one from the Cold War, showing a very distinctive three-corridor system of entry and exit to ….


Overflight Risk – North Korea, Australian strike: Midweek Briefing 23MAR

Australian Airport Strikes cancelled 23MAR Australia had been set up for a week of Airport Chaos over the Easter Break, with Border Protection and other government services planning a huge list of strikes – but the events in Belgium yesterday prompted an announcement this morning that the strike is cancelled. Read the full article.

North Korea overflight getting riskier 23MAR Over the last fortnight, North Korea has been launching short and medium range missiles like they are going out of style. Nobody in Pyongyang has any intention of aiming them at civil airliners, but the objective is not where the risk lies. Read the full article.

EBBR/Brussels Remains closed until 0000Z on 24MAR, at earliest. If operating to Europe, expect increased security, checks, and delays not just in Belgium but across the continent. ANSP’s and AO’s are invited to join an ad-hoc teleconference organized by Eurocontrol NMOC at 1100Z today. For the log-in procedure, please refer to the Crisis portlet in the protected NOP.

HKNW/Nairobi Four British nationals were arrested on 21MAR for taking pictures of aircraft at Wilson Airport (HKNW/WIL). The detainees have been ordered to pay 2,000 USD or face up to a year in prison.

VHHH/Hong Kong is taking a close look at Airlines and AO’s that depart outside their allocated slot times. Airport capacity is critical and the Airport Company has said they will restrict operators seen to be abusing slot times – the official guideline is departing more than 15 minutes outside your slot window is frowned upon. Have a read of AIC 02/2016 – plenty of background information there if you operate regularly.

KZZZ/USA Thanks to Lee I. for this update – The FAA has now activated 11 of the planned 56 Airports offering CPDLC-DCL. Next up are KTEB/Teterboro and KLAS/Las Vegas on 28MAR.

MDZZ/Dominican Republic Business visitors and tourists who extend their stays beyond 30 days are now subject to an exit fee.

ZKPY/Pyongyang On 21MAR, at approximately 1519 local time (0619 UTC), North Korea launched several missiles into the Sea of Japan. South Korean media reported that the missiles landed approximately 125 mi/200 km from the North Korean city of Hamhung. U.S. military officials stated that they were monitoring the situation with a heightened defense posture. The North Korean military conducted the launch in response to ongoing military exercises between U.S. and South Korean troops.

Zika Virus The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has listed the ZIKA virus as an “Alert Level 2”. You can find more details on which countries are specifically affected through the CDC website. The CDC has recently added Cuba to the list of affected countries.

URRR/Rostov Airport operational again following crash of B738 on 19MAR.

ZSSS/Shanghai will host ABACE2016 on 12-14APR at Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Centre (BAC). Shanghai has two airports of entry (AOEs) – ZSSS and Pudong (ZSPD). Both require airport slots (and have general aviation (GA) departure curfews in place 0700-0900 local). While ZSPD operates 24 hours, ZSSS has night curfews in effect 0001-0559 local. It’s only possible to obtain one slot, at either airport, during peak hours of 0900-2200 local. Also, by regulation, aircraft aren’t permitted to reposition from ZSPD to ZSSS, and vice versa. ZSSS has a fixed-base operator (FBO), while ZSPD doesn’t. Parking is limited to a maximum of three days at ZSSS but is generally unrestricted at ZSPD. Drive time between the two airports ranges from 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic (Thanks Sheng Young for this info).

SZZZ/Ecuador The Sangay volcano, located between the provinces of Chimborazo and Morona Santiago in the Andean and Amazon regions has shown increased activity as of 05MAR, with small explosions and tremors. Some ash flow has been observed towards the south. Please check the VAAC for further details.

GVNP/Cape Verde on 12MAR, 6 members of a TAAG Angola Airlines crew were targeted in an attempted armed robbery in Praia, Cape Verde. Reports indicate that assailants opened fire on the bus that was transporting the crew from GVNP/RAI to a hotel in Prainha. The bus driver was able to elude the attackers, and there were no injuries.

PLCH/Christmas Island has no JetA1 until 17APR. Elsewhere in the Pacific, PKMJ/Majuro has no fuel 21-25MAR, and PTPN/Pohnpei is out of supply until 28MAR.

SVMI/Caracas On 19MAR, assailants on a motorcycle shot a man who had recently arrived on a flight from Germany – while resisting a robbery attempt as he was walking along an outside corridor near a terminal at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport (SVMI/CCS).


View the full International Bulletin for 23MAR2016

North Korea overflight getting riskier

Update: FSB removed North Korea warnings on May 14, 2018

The annual posturing between the DPRK (North Korea), and the US/South Korea, follows a fairly regular pattern each year. The cycle involves escalating threats (by both sides), a cooling off process, a long period of nothing, and then a resumption of threats. History tells us that there is nothing to fear, because this is always the way it works on this peninsula, but then a slightly less micro view also tells us that we don’t always make the correct risk assessment.

Prior to MH17 (B777 shootdown, Ukraine), our view of missiles in the commercial aviation community was a little casual.  Post-incident, the rule of ‘overflights are safe’ as a standing principle was removed,  and suddenly a whole lot more interest was applied to what was going on underneath the airways, even if we were up at FL350.

In specific terms, over the last fortnight, North Korea has been launching short and medium range missiles like they are going out of style. Nobody in Pyongyang has any intention of aiming them at civil airliners, but the objective is not where the risk lies. Late last year when Russia fired 30+ missiles into Syria, at least 5 of them went off course (including way above where they should have flown).

This wayward tracking is the greater part of our concern, for all flights within the Pyongyang FIR (ZKKP). Most international overflights are using the North-South airways over water to the east of the landmass, and it’s worth considering that the missiles launched in the last week have been directed out over the sea in this direction (not coincidentally in the direction of Japan, who isn’t on the DPRK Christmas card list either).

US Operators are in any case restricted by SFAR79, but everyone else should be keeping a close eye on their North Korean overflight plans. (If this hasn’t put you off, you can read the full North Korea overflight permit requirements).

Air Koryo B747-8

Australian Airport Strike cancelled

Announced this morning, Wednesday 23MAR: Australia had been set up for a week of Airport Chaos over the Easter Break, with Border Protection and other government services planning a huge list of strikes – but the events in Belgium yesterday prompted a cancellation of the strike.

Some airport staff have already been engaged in stop work action at airports in Cairns, Townsville, Perth, Darwin and Adelaide as part of the two-year battle over pay and conditions.

Bigger disruptions were anticipated tomorrow when staff at major international airports in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were going to mount a 24-hour strike starting at midnight.

Earlier today Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged the Community and Public Sector Union to reconsider, following the attacks in Brussels. The union has now confirmed it has instructed staff not to strike, and attend work as normal.

According to a statement, National Secretary Nadine Flood said the decision was made after the Prime Minister’s comments. Earlier Mr Turnbull told Channel 7 he had been assured that there would be adequate security at the airports, but he pressured the union to retract its plans.

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Midweek Briefing: High Seas Airspace, Canada New Entry Rules

High Seas Airspace – near misses 16MAR The Baltic Sea (Scandinavia) is seeing an alarming rise in traffic proximity events, and ICAO has issued guidance to operators with background and information. Military flights operating under ‘due regard’ are, well – not. Read the full article about High Seas airspace.

Canada New Entry Rules – relaxed 16MAR The new Canada Entry Rules – requiring most visitors to have an eTA before departing – came into force yesterday; with a caveat. In short: you should have one, but it’s OK if you don’t – at least until September 2016. Read the full article.



Cxxx/Canada The new Canada Entry Rules – requiring most visitors to have an eTA before departing – came into force on 15MAR; with a caveat. In short: you should have one, but it’s OK if you don’t – at least until September 2016. Read the full article.

Cxxx/Canada Effective 30MAR, Canadian rules will no longer require an approach completely independent of GNSS at the planned destination. However, where a GNSS approach is planned at both the destination and the alternate, the aerodromes will need to be separated by a minimum of 100 NM. Refer AIC5/16.

Baltic Sea Based on several concrete examples of missing flight plans, the Russian Federation, Finland and Estonia agreed to define 7 new waypoints for State aircraft operations over the High Seas that could be used, to replace the current string of LAT/LONG coordinates, to facilitate all future FPLs between St. Petersburg FIR and Kaliningrad FIR. The ICAO Secretariat assigned the following 5LNCs: PISIS-PIDINPISIM-PIRUX-PINIX-PIVAX-PIPOM. All involved States (Russian Federation, Estonia, Finland and Latvia) agreed to implement/publish these waypoints (all over the High Seas), for the 30 MAR 2016 AIRAC date. Read the High Seas Airspace article.

North Atlantic CPDLC and ADS-C services will be out of service in Gander, Shanwick, Shannon and Reykjavik FIRS on 21MAR for periods lasting no longer than a few hours due to Inmarsat satellite replacement work. Please check the FIR NOTAM’s that pertain to your operation that day.

Kxxx/United States Due to a missile launch from within Miami Airspace the FAA has issued NOTAM A0366/16 to advise of the potential impact to operations with KZMA, KZWY and TJSJ FIRs from March 16 to March 17th. Please check the NOTAM for full details on all the possible routing constraints.

LTXX/Turkey NATO has begun surveillance within the Turkish FIR as part of assurance measures for Turkey. The first duty period was 12-15MAR.

Time Changes Clocks go forward/back depending on whether you’ve just had a long winter or a long summer. The US changed on 13MAR, most of Europe is on 27MAR, Australia and NZ on 03APR. has a very useful list.

KTEB/Teterboro A new Charted Quiet Visual Runway 19 visual approach will be published on 31MAR. Starting 04APR, the FAA will test the procedure for 180 days to gauge pilot compliance and environmental impact to determine if the procedure will become permanent.

YMML/Melbourne will host the Formula 1 Grand Prix 17-20MAR, with additional traffic to both YMML and YMEN/Essendon during these dates.

KATL/Atlanta Officials in Atlanta are laying the groundwork for an expansion of the world’s busiest airport. Work will begin soon on a $6 billion expansion and renovation project at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Workers will update the domestic passenger terminal and concourses, and add a sixth runway and a hotel. Work begins on concourse renovations later this year.

Lxxx/Austria has issued AIC 4/16 outlining the near future use of more direct Free Route Airspace.

Oxxx/Iran The U.S. State Dept issued a Travel Warning to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans, in Iran, and to note that FAA has advised U.S. civil aviation to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the airspace over Iran.

NVVV/Port Vila Runway 11/29 will be closed from 16MAR at 1300Z until 17MAR at 1930Z for maintenance. This essentially closes the airport during the time period.

Yxxx/Australia A reminder that Easter travel could be severly disrupted with Border Force and Immigrationstaff at international airports across Australia planning to take strike action on the eve of Good Friday.

UIBB/Bratsk Don’t go. No fuel. Until 31MAR.

View the full International Bulletin 16MAR2016

High Seas Airspace – What is it?

Austria might have the worlds most perfect little piece of airspace. Wien (Vienna) FIR matches the countries’ political boundaries perfectly. There is no ocean, no disputed boundaries, and no delegation of ATC.

Wien FIR

For most others, it’s not as straightforward. For some, it’s beyond complex.

So how do countries determine what their airspace looks like? Airspace overhead the actual landmass belongs without question to the country, so that’s easy.

Then, from the shoreline out to 12nm are the Territorial Waters, as agreed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982 – giving us “Territorial Waters Airspace”.

The next chunk is the 12nm-200nm area – the Exclusive Economic Zone. In aviation, this sometimes has an effect on whether prior permission in the form of an Overflight Permit is required – Peru and Ecuador have in the past claimed this requirement. Beyond this, International Waters exist.

In aviation, the term of reference has become High Seas Airspace, and is taken to refer to anything outside the 12nm buffer where no country has sovereign jurisdiction over airspace. By international agreement, chunks of airspace are assigned to individual countries to provide an ATC service, because we prefer to have ATC watching us and providing separation, in comparison to trying to do it ourselves using 126.9 and TCAS.

As has been recently the case over the Black Sea, that agreement isn’t always unanimous, and ICAO sometimes has to tread a difficult political line in assigning their preferred responsibility – last month Ukraine opened up routes in “High Seas Airspace” that Russia also wanted to have a crack at managing.

The Baltic Sea has long been a generator of news stories of close encounters with the Bear (Tu-95), this is because of the multitude of small chunks of High Seas Airspace that allow flights out of Russia towards the UK and Europe. ICAO is concerned at the rising incidences of conflict between civil traffic (that’s us) and military flights over the Baltic.

These military flights operate under Due Regard – but often don’t file flight plans and ATC know nothing about them until they are pretty close to you. You’re unlikely to see them on TCAS either. So, that regard is not so high.

We’ll continue the next time with a look at “No FIR Airspace” – those chunks of High Seas airspace where nobody is in control, mysteriously marked “XXX” on our charts.



Why we have a “Now” Page

Internet rulebook: Flashy is better. Make it polished, add images, video, a quote, and wrap it up with some ads. Sometimes (often, mostly?) – that’s a tedious way to get through simple information. It’s a clear message that the reader isn’t being put first.

Most websites have an “About”, and a “Contact us”. But what is that person, or that company doing now? Would it be useful to have a “Now” page? We thought it might be, and we also thought the simpler, the better.

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