International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Month: May 2017

Indonesia is intercepting aircraft – outside their airspace

If you are operating in the Singapore FIR, consider this carefully: you may be overflying Indonesia without knowing it. Indonesia will know though, and they want you to have an overflight permit.

You will find out in one of three ways:

  1. You’ll be intercepted by two Indonesian Air Force Sukhoi 27/30 Flanker jets and brought to Indonesia
  2. You’ll receive a nastygram via your National Authority
  3. You’ll get a fine

2. and 3. are not cool, but 1. is something to avoid at all costs. The inside of military/police cells at outlying Indonesian Airports is not pretty.

Watch out for the following airways – M758, M646, M767, G334, M761, G580. These all pass over Indonesian territory, even though the area is actually part of the Singapore and Malaysia FIR’s.

Indonesia has a reputation for excessively strict enforcement of permit rules. Back in 2014, a King Air plane en-route from Sarawak to Singapore was intercepted by Indonesian fighter jets in airspace managed by Singapore ATC, and was forced to land at WIOO/Pontianak Airport in Indonesia.

The reason? Because they were overflying some small Indonesian islands out in the ocean, the Indonesian Air Force claimed they were overflying Indonesia’s sovereign skies – without a permit.

Indonesia still hasn’t updated its AIP, but the rules they enforce are clear: if you’re overflying any Indonesian territory, you must get an overflight permit, regardless of the flight level.

Here’s a recent nastygram to an OpsGroup member in February 2017:

Bottom line: check your airways carefully, and make sure there are no Indonesian Island underneath. If there are, get a permit.

ATC Nightmare in the Hills

This article was originally published on

In any one of the plausible alternative endings to this event, a departing Boeing 777 impacts the San Gabriel mountains at about 5000 feet, just east of Los Angeles, at 1.25am.

Exactly how this didn’t happen is almost unexplainable. With 353 people on board, this was 22 seconds away from being the worst air disaster in the US.

For a solid 3 minutes in the early morning, the Boeing was being guided not by the pilots, not by the Air Traffic Controller, but by the precipitous balance between good fortune and tragic fate.

At 1.24 am, level at 5,000 feet, the flight is 40 seconds from impacting a ridge-line west of St Gabriel Peak. A minute later, a wide turn to the right points the aircraft instead at Mt Wilson — now 22 seconds away and above the aircraft. Only a slow climb, the result of fumbled instructions and a gradual realisation by the crew of the danger, released the flight from a certain and conclusive end in the dark hills.

So exactly what happened? On December 16th last year, at 1.19am, EVA 015, a Boeing 777–300ER with 353 occupants, got airborne from Runway 7R at Los Angeles. 2 minutes after departure, the aircraft starts to make a turn in a direction opposite to that expected by the controller. That left turn immediately sets up a conflict and potential loss of separation with Air Canada 788.

With that conflict resolved, more by the natural tendency of airplanes to diverge than by any positive control instruction, the overall scene becomes bleaker. Rattled by the unanticipated loss of separation, the controllers’ picture is lost; fumbled left-right-left instructions confuse the Boeing crew, and very soon, nobody is actually flying the airplane.

Time are in UTC(GMT) — showing the aircraft track for the three minutes starting at 1.23 am local time. 


The ATC recording and track replay is YouTube nirvana for the congregation of armchair experts (the writer included). “Terrible controlling” is the common cry. “The pilots were at fault” say the counter-parties.

There is no doubt that this is Air Traffic Control at its darkest. But in any incident where we smugly allocate blame to one individual, we are blind to a bigger story. There is always a systemic failure to look at. In this case, there are several.

Loss of Separation vs. Real collision risk

For an Air Traffic Controller, there is a subconscious difference between the fear of losing separation (the legal minimum distance), and the fear of an aircraft collision. The purpose of ATC is to prevent collisions, but the mindset of an Air Traffic Controller is focused on preventing loss of separation. This is an important distinction.

A loss of separation is a traumatic experience for any ATCO. It results in immediate suspension of the right to work, remedial training, a loss of confidence, and a few sleepless nights. Even if the required separation is 5 miles, and a controller allows aircraft to pass with 4.9, it’s game over.

And so, in any conflict on the radar scope that looks like it might become a loss of separation, the controller (being a human being) will encounter physiological symptoms — shock being the first, activating the autonomic nervous system — increasing heart and breathing rate, and releasing adrenaline. These are helpful for both of the Fight or Flight options, but not for thinking clearly. The psychological impact of the loss of separation blurs the importance of preventing a collision.

Training wins

I’ve worked as both pilot and controller. Faced with pressure, we revert to the level of our training. This is why pilots visit the flight simulator every couple of months. We’ve trained to the point that an engine exploding as we rotate the aircraft off the runway is no longer a shock that renders us useless. If this were to happen in reality, we still feel the adrenaline and shock — but we can plunge straight into the “Engine Failure subroutine”. We have training to revert to. Listen to Aer Lingus Flight 120 experiencing this. You can hear the training, and you can also hear the adrenaline. Training wins.

For Air Traffic Controllers, faced with an unexpected situation, we also revert to training —but we don’t train for our emergencies in the same way that pilots do. The training, in fact, isn’t there to revert to.

As a controller, I’ve held Tower, Approach, and Enroute ratings in different countries. ATC training in how to separate airplanes is excellent. Training in how to recover from the unexpected is not.

Ultimately, it’s the same deal. Both Pilots and Controllers spend 99.99% of their time operating in the routine. It’s not uncommon for a pilot to spend his entire career without encountering an engine shutdown. Similarly, many controllers retire without ever having lost separation.

But it would be unthinkable for an airline to have crews that don’t know what to do in an emergency. Why then, is it acceptable to not offer controllers the same degree of contingency training?

Emergencies and ATC

When we talk about ATC Emergency training, what we are really used to looking at is what to say and do when a pilot has an emergency. Mayday, Pan-Pan, Emergency descent, Hijack.

But what about when ATC has their own emergency. When you’ve missed a conflict, have a deep loss of separation, lost the picture — when you’ve completely screwed up. Somewhere in the manual, there’s probably a few lines about using standard phraseology, exercise best judgement, provide traffic information, don’t interfere with an RA.

As humans, this doesn’t help us. There is no patter to fall into. We need trigger phrases to kick off trained behaviour when the shock of the event wants to take us elsewhere. In the cockpit that I flew in, whatever happened, the trigger phrase was “Take action”. From here, whatever the situation, we knew where to go. Identify the problem, run the checklist, push buttons, talk to ATC.

In the Aer Lingus example above: Mayday, Shamrock 12G, Engine Failure, Climbing straight ahead, Standby.

Alert — Identification — Situation — Intentions — Request.

Clear as a bell.

On the EVA tape, it is clear that the controller has no such place to go to. It’s the equivalent of trying to exit an underwater shipwreck with no guide rope. You need something to hold onto as you find your way back to the surface.

She never did. After the shock of the loss of separation, she was now faced with a 777 heading into the 6500ft San Gabriel hills level at 5000 feet. She did not move on from preventing a loss of separation to preventing a collision with terrain. Even when apparently finally realising the aircraft was heading for high ground, there was little in the way of an urgent climb or turn instruction, and nothing that mentioned to the crew that they were in immediate danger.

Losing the picture


If we consider ourselves to blame for the situation, it will cloud our judgement, obscuring the true picture. If we allow that to develop further, we can lose the picture entirely. There is nothing in our training that gives us a clear path out of the loss of separation. No mnemonics, no patter, no phraseology.

This is the lesson to be learned from this event. ATC agencies should make available to their controllers the same degree of emergency and “unusual situation” training that airlines offer to pilots. And somewhere in there has to be an ingrained, trained-by-rote-reminder that when you lose separation, you immediately pick up the fallen cards and move on to preventing a collision, whether that is with another aircraft or terrain.

In the EVA 015 incident, we can be thankful that the sheer mercy of fate allowed all on board to thread their way through and out the other side of the San Gabriel mountains. If ATC training were more cognisant of the human factors aspect of the shock of losing separation, we may not have to rely on the mercy of fate next time.

European Ramp Checks – most popular questions from inspectors

Of late, the level of interest in OpsGroup for European Ramp Checks has been very high.  There has been a lot to think about. First, we discovered in March that French inspectors had started recording a finding for operators that were using the Manufacturer MEL instead of a customized one, and it turned out that across EASA-land inspectors were raising the same issue. There is an update on that below.

One of our members posted a great list of the most popular findings/issues raised by EASA Inspectors in the last 12 months, together with the skinny on “how to fix these, so you don’t get a finding”.

So, first let’s look at the Top 3 Categories, with the subset questions, and then an update on the D095 MMEL/MEL issue.

Popular European Ramp Check Items

Visiting and locally based aircraft may be subjected to ramp inspections as part of a States’ Safety Programme. The EU Ramp Inspection Programme (EU RIP) is one such inspection regime which currently has 48 participating states. The EU Ramp Inspectors review findings and use this intelligence as a basis for prioritising areas to inspect during a ramp check.

The most frequent findings and observations raised since January 2016 follow. This information can be used to help avoid similar findings being raised during future ramp inspections on your aircraft.

Most Frequent Findings

The main 3 categories of findings, relate to: Minimum Equipment Lists, Flight Preparation and Manuals.

1. Under the category of Minimum Equipment List, the finding is.
• MEL not fully customised.

2. Under the category of Flight Preparation, the main findings are:
• PBN Codes recorded on the flight plan which the operator did not have operational approval for
• Use of alternates which were not appropriate for the aircraft type; and
Use of alternate airports which were closed

3. Under the category of Manuals, the main finding is.
• AFM was not at the latest revision.


Simple Steps to Avoid Similar Findings

1.    Review your MEL, especially amendments made to the MEL after the initial approval, and ensure it is fully customised:
•    Where the MMEL and/or TC holders source O&M procedures require the operator to develop ‘Alternate Procedures’ or ’Required Distribution’ etc. these must be specified in the operators MEL and/or O&M procedure;


Full report in your OpsGroup Dashboard, including the standard ramp checklist PDF:

Opsgroup Dashboard login Join OPSGROUP for access

To get the full report and checklist – there are two options:

  1. OPSGROUP Members, login to the Dashboard and find it under “Publications > Notes to Members”. All FSB content like this is included in your membership, or 
  2. Join OPSGROUP with an individual, team, or department/airline plan, and get it free on joining (along with a whole bunch of other stuff), or

Airbus 380 flips CL604 – full report is now published

  • Interim report finally released by the German BFU
  • Flight Service Bureau version of events confirmed
  • New pictures released by the investigators

Back in March, FSB covered a major wake turbulence upset experienced by a Challenger 604 after passing an A380.  After our initial story was published, it was covered in various versions in The Times of London, Flying magazine, AIN Business Aviation News,  Deutsche Welle, and NBC. The picture on the Flight Service Bureau facebook page was viewed 1.1 million times.

From the interim report, these facts are confirmed:

  • The incident was caused by the wake from an Airbus A380 at FL350
  • The Challenger 604 passed directly underneath the A380 at FL340
  • The wake encounter occurred 48 seconds after the cross – when the two aircraft were 15nm part
  • The Challenger initially rolled 42 degrees to the right, then 31 degrees left, and experienced G-Loads of 1.6g positive followed 1 second later by -3.2 g.
  • It lost altitude from FL340 to FL253 over a 2 minute period – loss of 8700 ft.

In an interview, the crew said:

The airplane shook briefly, then rolled heavily to the left and the autopilot disengaged. [We] actuated the aileron to the right in order to stop the rolling motion. But the airplane had continued to roll to the left thereby completing several rotations. Subsequently both Inertial Reference Systems (IRS), the Flight Management System (FMS), and the attitude indication failed”

“… since the sky was blue and the ocean’s surface almost the same colour [I] was able to recognise the aircraft’s flight attitude with the help of the clouds

The BFU published the FDR excerpt above, and a full interior picture of the cabin, post event.


Flight Service Bureau has issued guidance to OpsGroup members, in Note to Members #24 (March 19th, 2017), which can be downloaded publicly here. The highlights are:

  • As Aircrew, use SLOP whenever you can.
  • As Controllers, be mindful of smaller aircraft passing underneath A380’s.
  • Avoid flying the centreline if you can. SLOP 0 is not an offset. Choose 1nm or 2nm.
  • Note the new SLOP rules from ICAO in the 16th edition of Doc 4444.
  • Expect guidance from EASA and the FAA to follow

With very recent updates to both NAT Doc 007 and ICAO Doc 4444, the rules for SLOP are a little different than before.




Bermuda PPR requirements for the Americas Cup

Bermuda will host the Americas Cup from May 29 – Jun 27.

As a result, the airport will be busier than usual, so plan ops and parking well in advance.

There are now a number of requirements for private/non-scheduled flights, applied between May 23 until June 30:

  • PPR is mandatory. You must have permission from the Airport Company before operating
  • The Americas Cup dates are May 29-Jun 27, but PPR is required from May23-Jun 30.
  • The request must be made at least 24 hours in advance, unless you are operating a Medevac flight
  • PPR Number will be issued and must be shown in Field 18 of the FPL
  • Request the permission from, or phone them on +1 441 299-2470

PPR is not required to carry TXKF as an enroute alternate (it’s a popular ETOPS airport), but bear in mind that if you do choose to divert here, recovery may take longer.


Ramadan 2017 – country by country

In most of the world, Ramadan is expected to begin on May 26 and end on June 24, with both dates depending on lunar sightings. Eid-al-Fitr is expected to be observed June 25, though the exact dates will vary by country. Across the countries which celebrate the holiday, there will be delays processing permits, slots, and other operational requirements involving CAA’s and Airport Authorities.

Ramadan Summary for 2017

Foreign nationals and their employers can expect immigration processing delays over the coming weeks in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and parts of Asia during the observance of the month of Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr. Many government offices worldwide reduce their hours and/or close during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

Algeria: The month of Ramadan is expected to begin May 26 or 27 and end June 24 or 25, depending on lunar sightings. While public offices are not officially closed during Ramadan, most government offices will open at 10:00 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m. Government offices will also likely be closed on Eid-al-Fitr. Processing delays can be expected.

Bangladesh: The month of Ramadan will begin on May 26. While the government offices will operate with reduced workforce during this month and until June 29, they will be closed from June 23 through 27 in observation of Eid-ul-Fitr. Processing delays of permit applications should be expected throughout the month of Ramadan.

Brunei: The month of Ramadan will begin on May 27. Government offices are expected to operate on reduced business hours throughout the month of Ramadan. These offices will be closed for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday, which is expected to take place June 26 through 28, but may change depending on lunar sighting. Processing delays are expected throughout the month of Ramadan and may continue for up to two weeks after Ramadan ends.

Indonesia: The month of Ramadan will begin on May 26, ending with Hari Raya Idul Fitri which will fall on June 25 and 26. Most government offices and consular posts are expected to reduce their business days by one to two hours throughout the month of Ramadan, and closures will likely occur several days before and after the Idul Fitri holiday due to staffing shortages. Processing delays are also expected throughout the month of Ramadan.

Malaysia: The month of Ramadan will begin on May 26. Government offices are expected to operate with reduced hours throughout the month of Ramadan. Government offices will be closed for Hari Raya Aidilfitri on June 26 and 27. Processing delays are expected throughout the month of Ramadan and may continue for up to three weeks after Ramadan ends.
Middle East/North Africa (Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates): The month of Ramadan is expected to begin on May 27 and end on June 24. Government offices across the Middle East will be working reduced hours during Ramadan, which may affect processing times for all permit applications. Foreign nationals and employers are advised to check with the relevant office for exact hours of operation. Processing delays could continue in the weeks following Ramadan due to application backlogs that accumulate during the closures.

Turkey: Government offices will be closed June 26 and 27. Processing delays can be expected on these days.

Sanya FIR: Do I need an overflight permit?

The 3-second answer: you don’t need a China overflight permit on airways: A1, L642, M771 and N892. You only need one if you’re travelling on airway A202.

That kind of makes sense, as A202 is the only airway right up there at the very top of the Sanya FIR, cutting across Sanya’s landmass, and connecting the VVVV/Hanoi FIR with the ZGZU/Guangzhou FIR. All the other airways are out over the ocean, down to the South of the Sanya FIR, and not going anywhere near the Chinese mainland.

So if you want to operate on A202, you’ll need a China overflight permit. Technically, you’re supposed to submit your request to the CAA by AFTN to: ZBBBZGZX, ZGGGZBZX and ZJSYZRZX, 3 days in advance. However, unless you’ve done it before and you know what you’re doing, we suggest you just use an agent instead – dealing with the Chinese authorities direct can often be a misery.

Regardless of which airway you use, if you’re flying on a call sign, remember to put down the aircraft reg in Field 18 of the flight plan, and fill the accumulated EET to the Sanya FIR. Also, if you’re flying on L642, M771 or N892, you’ve got to be RNP10 approved, otherwise you’ll have to stay below FL280.

Europe’s on fire today!

Above is the current lightning map for Europe today; this is the first mass CB/Thunderstorm event of 2017.

These occur regularly during the Euro-summer, and operations in NL, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria get heavily impacted.

Eurocontrol says: CB activity with local Thunderstorm activity forecast over Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Several en route and aerodrome arrival regulations have been applied.
EDDF, EDDM, EDDS, Paris TMA, LOWW, LSGG and LSZH. Moderate to High delays can be expected.


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