International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Author: David Mumford (page 1 of 4)

That MMEL thing: here’s an update

We expect an announcement soon from the joint FAA/EASA workgroup that will provide a solution to the long-running MMEL vs MEL debacle.

Last year, ramp checks on some US aircraft in France highlighted an important issue – EASA and the FAA have different interpretations of the ICAO standards regarding deferring aircraft discrepancies.

In the US, with FAA authorization operators can use a master minimum equipment list (MMEL) to defer repairing certain equipment. But in Europe, MMEL cannot be used in lieu of an MEL specific to each aircraft or fleet.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) began requiring all aircraft transiting European airspace to have an approved Minimum Equipment List (MEL) for each, individual aircraft. An MEL that references the MMEL was not acceptable.

This has been a pain for US operators, as to get an individual MEL approved under the Letter of Authorisation from the FAA takes time – but by not doing so, they run the risk of failing a ramp check in a European country.

However, it looks like an end to the problem may be in sight: we expect the FAA will soon issue a notice requiring international operators to obtain new D195 LOA’s, and in return EASA will halt any findings for a period of 12 months to allow for these new LOA’s to be issued.

Western countries lift bans on Iraq airspace

Back in December 2017, the U.S. FAA issued KICZ A0025/17 which lifted the full ban on the Baghdad FIR, and allowed U.S. operators to overfly the country above FL260.

Now the three other big countries that regularly publish airspace safety information—France, Germany and the UK—have followed suit with new advice of their own.

France recommends that overflights should only be on airways UM860 and UM688, and should be at or above FL320.

The UK says that overflights should only be on airways UL602 to ALPET, UM860 and UM688, and should be above FL250.

Germany just say that overflights should be at FL260 or above.

Back in November 2017, several international airlines (Emirates, Turkish) resumed Iraq overflights after their national authorities removed restrictions. With the announcement that Iraqi forces had defeated ISIS and that the country had been fully returned to government control, the airspace risk in Iraq has reduced.

Iraq has published a few of its own Notams with various different areas of closed airspace at lower levels due to ongoing military operations. The only one that affects the higher flight levels is in the north-west, along the border with Syria, where a no-fly area has been introduced from SFC-FL460.

However, airways UM860 and UM688 (the two main routes through the Baghdad FIR) to the east of this zone are unaffected, and now effectively open above FL260.

This means that operators will have shorter routes through the Middle East available once again. Emirates is already reported to be routing around 150 flights a day via Iraq, rather than having to take longer routes via Saudi Arabia or Iran – so expect this bit of airspace to start to get busy again soon.

Swiss restrictions for the Davos World Economic Forum

The Davos World Economic Forum is on from Jan 23-26.

LSZH/Zurich along with most other airports in the area will be busy during this period. So if you’re planning on attending— or even if you’ll just be passing through—best get your slot/PPR request in as soon as possible.


  • Will be congested, so apply for slots early if you’re actually planning on stopping there. You might not get the slots you requested, particularly if you want to arrive/depart at peak times.
  • Earliest non-scheduled landing for a wide body aircraft without parking permission will be 1300z daily.
  • Maximum 3 hour ground time for general aviation without parking permission (so drop-and-go’s are fine, as long as they stay within that 3 hour window).
  • You will not be able to use LSZH as an alternate to flights going to LSZS/Samedan.
  • Airport operates from 0500-2100z daily, and overtime is not available – make sure you land before closing time or you’ll get diverted to another airport.
  • There should be space for most aircraft who want to park here for the Forum, but all other GA/BA aircraft might struggle to get parking approval.   


  • Located in downtown Zurich. Normally a military airfield, but opens to civilian traffic each year for the Forum.
  • Open 0600-2000z weekdays, and 0800-1900z on Saturday, closed on Sundays, with no overtime available.
  • Should have lots of parking available.
  • Slots not required, but PPR is.
  • Customs clearance is provided in the military terminal building.
  • For handling, email the airport handler direct on:
  • The airport publishes a special ‘Air Crew Guide’ for any aircraft coming there during the Forum week each year. Bunch of info about the airport and approaches, etc. Give it a read by clicking here.


  • Open 0500-2100z weekdays, and 0800-1900z on weekends, with overtime available on request.
  • No slot or PPR requirements.
  • Parking not usually a problem during the week of the Forum.
  • Be aware as this airport is in Germany, fuel will generally be more expensive as the taxes are higher here.


Bear in mind, landing permits are not required for private GA flights to Switzerland. You’ll only need a landing permit if you’re operating a charter flight on an aircraft not registered in the EU. For that, email the authorities direct at:


No supply issues expected at any of the airports, just expect the normal congestion-related delays with getting a fuel truck out to you on day of departure. For charter flights departing from Switzerland, you can uplift fuel tax free – but be mindful that taxes will become due and payable if you do not then leave the country within 24 hours.

Europe now requires 8.33 VHF radios (almost) everywhere

Effective January 1st, 2018, the official line is that you need an 8.33 VHF Radio to operate anywhere in Europe. If you’re heading to Europe without one, expect problems.

Until now, it’s really only been a requirement above FL195 – 8.33 has been around at the higher levels since 2007. However, Europe is keen to get everyone on the same page and make sure new frequencies can be used by all aircraft at the lower levels also.

However, not everywhere is actually requiring 8.33 just yet.  Eurocontrol have built a handy tool that shows each the requirements for each airspace sector. Click on the image below to check it out.

Can I get an exemption? If you’re operating a ferry, delivery, or some other flight where you don’t have 8.33, then you should be able to get an exemption to operate without 8.33 – but it will vary state to state. Write to the Ministry of Transport for the particular state.

Eurocontrol have published all the details on this as follows:

Above FL195, in the IFPZ, not equipped aircraft may be exempted from the carriage of the 8.33 kHz radios (refer to the national AIP of the state concerned to see if the flight is eligible) in which case the letter Y shall not be inserted in Item 10a (Equipment), but the letter Z shall be inserted in Item 10a as well as COM/EXM833 in the Item 18 (Other Information) of the filed flight plan.

Below FL195, in the airspace of the EU member states (plus Switzerland and Norway) some airspaces may be exempted from the carriage of the 8.33 kHz radios (refer to the national AIP of the state concerned) in which case the airspace is not inserted in the area where the mandatory carriage check takes place. Such exemption will permit a non-equipped aircraft to fly but only if the flight trajectory remains exclusively in airspaces where 8.33 kHz is not mandatory.

Below FL195, in the airspaces of the EU member states (plus Switzerland and Norway), state aircraft non-UHF and non-833 are exempted. The letters Y and U shall not be inserted in Item 10 (Equipment), but STS/STATE shall be inserted in the Item 18 (Other Information) of the filed flight plan.

In the IFPZ, State aircraft that are not equipped with 8.33 kHz capable radios but are equipped with UHF shall be permitted to fly in 8.33 kHz airspace where UHF coverage is provided or special procedures are implemented (see the national AIP of the State concerned). To indicate such, the letters U and Z shall be inserted in Item 10a (Equipment) and ‘COM/EXM833’ shall be inserted in Item 18 (Other Information) of the filed flight plan.


Confused? Here’s a quick crib-sheet of what to do:

When you file a flight plan in Europe, it goes through the automated IFPS system, which is now quite clever at checking for 8.33 kHz radio compliance.

The IFPS system will crosscheck between the concerned airspaces crossed by the flight plan and the radio communication equipment indicated in Item 10: (Equipment) and Item 18 (Other information) provided in the submitted message.

Here’s what will happen, depending on what you put in your flight plan:

  • If Item 10 (Equipment) of the submitted message contains Y, then that flight is considered to be compliant.
  • If Item 10 (Equipment), of the submitted message does not contain Y, but contains Z and U and the exemption indicator COM/EXM833 is present in Item 18 (Other Information), and the flight is a STATE flight, then that flight shall be considered compliant.
  • If Item 10 (Equipment) of the submitted message does not contain Y but contains the exemption indicator COM/EXM833 and the flight is not penetrating the 833_UHF_VHF region and is entirely within the 833_EUR_IFPS, then that flight shall be considered compliant.
  • If Item 10 (Equipment) of the submitted message does not contain Y, neither U and Item 18 (Other Information) contains STS/STATE and the flight is exclusively in the airspace of the EU member states (plus Switzerland and Norway) below FL195 then that flight shall be considered compliant.

In all the other cases, the flight shall be considered not compliant and shall fail automatic processing!

Aviation scam emails are getting more clever – Japan Airlines fooled

Last year we reported on the growing rise of scam emails in aviation globally – particularly with regard to fake navigation fees.

Japan Airlines has fallen victim to a similar targeted email scam which has defrauded the company of JPY384 million yen – the equivalent of around USD $3.4 million.

A spokesperson for the company announced on Dec 21 that the airline received a series of emails in September purporting to be from a U.S. financial services company that had been leasing aircraft to Japan Airlines. Not realising it was scam, JAL promptly paid the money into a Hong Kong bank account, as requested. It was only later discovered to fraudulent in October, when the genuine U.S. company demanded payment.

Have you been the target of similar scams? Let us know! – We’re compiling a list of dodgy email addresses and common scams.

Countries with bans on flights to Israel

Which countries have banned both direct flights and overflying traffic to/from Israel?

It’s a question we get asked a lot. Here’s the answer:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen.

These countries do not officially recognise Israel, and prohibit flights going to/from Israel from using their airspace.

The one exception we’ve spotted is Sudan, who do allow Ethiopian Airlines to use their airspace for their Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv flights:

But for everyone else wanting to do private or non-scheduled flights to/from Israel, Sudan airspace is off-limits.

For anyone wanting to get from Israel to Asia, there is a narrow corridor available down the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and across the Indian Ocean. This takes advantage of the fact that most countries operate with a 12NM rule – that is, if you’re in their FIR, and you’re 12NM away from the landmass, you don’t need a permit.

Israel’s national carrier El Al operates a couple of scheduled flights on this basis – one to Mumbai, and another to Bangkok:

There is no airway down the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so you have to fly a direct route between the FIRs. As reported by an Opsgroup member, here’s how it works:

FL290 for southbound traffic, and FL300 for northbound. ATC at both Cairo and Saudi FIRs are used to that. When departing from Israel and going southbound, after losing radar contact with Cairo, you are on your own. Report on Africa VHF freq that you are "over International waters southbound / northbound etc." Listen to Saudi control and try to call them - but do not expect an answer. You will need to maintain your own separation visually, although the Saudis will see you on their radar and they are used to jets flying there. Keep your landing lights on 'pulse' for any opposite traffic. Contact Asmara (Eritrea) control 10NM before entering their FIR. Use SAT phone if no one answers on VHF.

On the reverse side, Israel only allow overflights of their airspace to Royal Jordanian Airlines, and only when departing from or flying to the following airports: CYUL/Montreal, EHBK/Maastricht, KDTW/Detroit, KORD/Chicago, LTAC/Ankara.

Although it’s technically possible for other operators to apply for an overflight permit, it can take up to 30 days, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get approved unless you’re operating some kind of diplomatic or state flight.

More information:

  • For direct flights to Israel, you can only operate from certain authorised airports. See the list of airports here.

  • If you want to know exactly how to get your landing or overflight permits, check out our Permit Book – this tells you how to get a permit for each and every country in the world!

  • Does anything in this article look wrong to you? Let us know, so we can fix it!

More NAT half-tracks are coming

Since Dec 2015, there have been three daily NAT tracks spaced by one-half degree between FL350-390. These are officially called ‘RLatSM Tracks’ (Reduced lateral separation minima), but we all just prefer to call them ‘Half-Tracks’.

Separating flights by one-half degree of latitude rather than the standard one degree means that aircraft can be separated laterally by 25nm, which helps improve the efficiency of North Atlantic operations.

In Jan 2018 the Half-Tracks will be expanded from the three that now run each day, first by one additional track and then (maybe) to all NAT Tracks between FL350-390 inclusive. Jan 4 is the earliest day that this might happen, but because they will be decided tactically, it will most likely be the first busy day after Jan 4.

If you want to operate on the RLatSM tracks, you’re going to need CPDLC, ADS-C, and RNP4; along with the other standard pre-requisites for operating in the NAT HLA between FL350-390: an HLA approval, TCAS 7.1, RVSM approval, two LRNS, and a working HF radio. To figure out where you are welcome on the NAT, depending on what equipment and training you have, check out our quick and dirty guide here.

One thing to be cautious of when using the half-degree tracks – most aircraft FMC’s truncate lat/long waypoints to a maximum of 7 characters, so it will often show up as the same waypoint whether you’re operating along whole or half degree waypoints. So when operating on the half-tracks, just remember to double-check the full 13-character representations of the lat/long waypoints when you enter them into the FMC.

For more details about the new RLatSM procedures, have a read of the UK AIC 087/2017 here.

A330 hit by gunfire at Tripoli

If you needed any more reason not to operate to Tripoli, here it is – a Libyan Airlines A330 hit by gunfire at HLLM/Mitiga airport during an exchange of fire between local militia in the district directly south of the airport on Oct 19.

Both airports in Tripoli are focal points for fighting. Given their strategic value, they periodically serve as headquarters for various local militias.

HLLT/Tripoli has been more or less completely closed since mid-2014, when at least 90% of the airport’s facilities were destroyed in fighting between local militias. Since then, international flights to and from Tripoli have been using HLLM/Mitiga instead. Technically, HLLT/Tripoli is now only available for VIP, emergency and ambulance flights; but in reality, it should be avoided at all costs.

HLLM/Mitiga is the old military airfield, which is now being used for civilian traffic, since the closure of HLLT/Tripoli. We last reported on the fighting that took place here back in July, where 5 people were killed and 32 injured. Mitiga was also forced to close on a number of occasions in October 2017 due to the violence.

A number of countries already have blanket warnings in place against operating to Libya, and they all say pretty much the same thing: avoid the entire country – don’t land at any airport, don’t even overfly.

So we suggest you ignore whatever gets pumped out on the HLLL FIR Notams about airports being “AVAILABLE H24 FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AND EN-ROUTE DIVERSIONS”. (You can read that nonsense by clicking here.)

Libya remains categorised as a Level One country (Do Not Fly) at

Afghan/Pakistan border waypoint name changes

Afghanistan has changed a bunch of waypoint names on its border with Pakistan today. If you’re flying that way, you’ll need to know these for when you submit your Pakistan permit – they only approve permits for specific entry/exit points.

For more details, check out the full AIP AIRAC AMDT here.

Overflight advice for Afghanistan averages out at a minimum FL250, though as with other mountainous countries we think FL320 is a better starting point. For Pakistan, the consensus among foreign authorities is to cross the OPLR/Lahore and OPKR/Karachi FIR’s at higher flight levels. For full details check out

If you want to know exactly how to get your landing or overflight permits, check out our Permit Book, which tells you how to get a permit for each and every country in the world!

Cathay crew witness missile re-entry from North Korea

Crew onboard a Cathay Pacific flight witnessed the re-entry of North Korea’s latest missile near their position late last week. The CX893 service from San Francisco to Hong Kong on Nov 29 was over Japan at the time when North Korea launched its missile.

The crew reported: “Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location.”

Here’s Cathay Pacific’s full statement:

“On 29 November, the flight crew of CX893 reported a sighting of what is suspected to be the re-entry of the recent DPRK test missile. Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC according to procedures. Operation remained normal and was not affected. We have been in contact with relevant authorities and industry bodies as well as with other carriers. At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters. We remain alert and review the situation as it evolves."

North Korea’s missiles are larger, and can fly further, than the other missiles we’ve previously seen. Over the past year, most of these missiles land in the Sea of Japan, well inside the Fukuoka Flight Information Region (Japanese airspace). But as we see with this latest test, there is clearly a danger of some of these missiles not re-entering the atmosphere intact – meaning that a debris field of missile fragments passes through the airspace, not just one complete missile. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you read this: our article on why North Korean missiles are now a real threat to Civil Aviation.

This latest test is also significant because of its unprecedented altitude – 4500km (2800 miles). Experts seem to agree that if it had been fired on a standard trajectory, the missile would have been capable of traveling around 13000km (8100 miles), meaning it could have struck anywhere in the mainland US.

If you’re operating in the region, we recommend avoiding the ZKKP/Pyongyang FIR entirely and avoiding the affected areas over the Sea of Japan. For more info, check out Safeairspace.

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