International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Author: David Mumford (page 1 of 7)

LFMM/Marseille weekend ATC strike 28-30 April

Another French ATC strike has been announced for the LFMM/Marseille ACC, spanning the entire weekend from 0430z on April 28 to 0430z on April 30.

Key points:

– It’s just the the controllers of the LFMM/Marseille ACC en-route airspace above FL145 who are on strike.

– They expect a lot of controllers will join the strike. They’re already saying that “minimum service is expected for the whole period” – that means that as little as 50% of FPL’s get accepted, which in the context of weekend traffic is bad news.

– Eurocontrol have published their Mitigation Plan, which includes recommended routes for flights to airports within the LFMM/Marseille sector during the strike. You can view that here.

– Malta, Algeria and Tunisia have once again opened up their airspace for re-routes too.

– So far, no reduction program has been requested from the airlines, although that may change.

– No plans for any measures to be applied on the Tango routes.

Each French ATC strike is different, but there are some things that are pretty much the same every time. For everything you need to know in order to survive, read our article!

European air traffic warned over Syria strikes

EASA are warning of possible air strikes into Syria being launched from locations within the LCCC/Nicosia FIR over the next 72 hours (Apr 11-14).

Eurocontrol have published a ‘Rapid Alert Notification’ on their website, with a statement from EASA that reads:

“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area.”

Very few commercial flights operate over Syria, and authorities in the US, UK, France and Germany have all previously issued warnings for Syrian airspace.

But many airlines regularly transit the LCCC/Nicosia FIR: there are frequent holiday flights to the main Cypriot airports of LCLK/Larnaca and LCPH/Paphos; overflight traffic from Europe to the likes of OLBA/Beirut, OJAI/Amman and LLBG/Tel Aviv; as well as traffic from Istanbul heading south to the Gulf and beyond.

Last year, two US warships in the eastern Mediterranean fired missiles at an air base in Syria after a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime killed more than 80 people.

This week, following another suspected chemical attack by the Syrian government against civilians in a rebel-held town in Syria, the US President Donald Trump warned there would be a “forceful” response. On Apr 11, he took to Twitter to warn Russia to prepare for strike on Syria:

For the airstrikes on Syria last year, the US gave Russia advance warning of the attack, and Russian forces opted not to attempt to shoot down the missiles using its air defence systems stationed in the region.

However, this time round things could be very different. This week, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon reminded the US that the head of the Russian military has said his forces in Syria would not only shoot down any missiles that threatened them but would target the source of the weapons as well.

The only US warship currently in the Mediterranean and capable of a possible strike is the USS Donald Cook, which left port in Larnaca and started to patrol in vicinity of Syria on Apr 9. According to some reports, it has since weighed anchor off Syrian territorial waters, and has been “buzzed” by low-flying Russian military jets.

Another 3 warships of the Sixth Fleet are already in the Atlantic Ocean, and on Apr 11 the entire US Truman Fleet (including an aircraft carrier, 6 destroyers, and nearly 6,500 sailors) departed Norfolk, Virginia, to head to the Mediterranean Sea. However, it may take up to a week for any of these warships to arrive.

Here’s an overview of US and coalition forces’ military options currently thought to be on offer in the eastern Mediterranean:

With the downing of MH17 by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, as well as all the recent unannounced missile tests by North Korea, there has been increased focus by the aviation community on the risks posed by conflict zones. If any missiles are launched from the Eastern Mediterranean in the next few days, be prepared for possible last-minute reroutes, as any Notams that get published may not give much warning.

Further reading:

One of our biggest missions in OPSGROUP is to share risk information and keep operators aware of the current threat picture. Check out Safeairspace for the most up-to-date information on airspace safety around the world.

Here’s what happens when Europe’s slot system crashes

On 3rd April 2018, a failure with the central European slot computer plunged the entire ATC system into crisis mode, with multiple knock on effects. Here’s what happened:

1. The system that allocates ATC slots to flights, and therefore manages the flow of traffic across Europe, failed at 1026 UTC. It’s called the ETFMS (Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System), but aka “The Slot Computer”

2. There is a Contingency Plan for this situation. Airports are supposed to use this, which gives a quick table of departure intervals allowed according to the destination. You can view the plan here and see what it looks like for all the main airports: http://www.eurocontrol.int/publications/network-manager-atfcm-procedural-contingency-plan

3. Some airlines reported that Istanbul, amongst others, were initially holding all departures, as local authorities were not well versed in the Contingency Plan and were unclear as to how to handle the situation. Eurocontrol then started calling round the 70 main airports to make sure they knew what they were supposed to do!

4. All flight plans filed before 1026Z were lost. Operators were instructed to re-file all their FPL’s, as well as those for the rest of the day, as Eurocontrol said they would only switch back on the slot computer once they reached a critical mass of filed flight plans in the system.

5. With the Contingency Plan in place, there was around a 10% total capacity reduction across the whole of Europe. Actual delay numbers – usually available on the NOP – were impossible to verify, because of all the missing FPL’s in the system.

6. Normally, Eurocontrol will re-address your FPL to ATC Centres outside the IFPZ. During the slot computer outage, operators had to do this manually, ie. find the FIR’s they would cross, get their AFTN addresses (like HECCZQZX), and send them their FPL.

7. The actual system failure was fixed at around 1400Z, but only went back online at around 1800Z, after it had been thoroughly tested and Eurocontrol were happy there were enough FPL’s back in the system.

In over 20 years of operation, Eurocontrol said “the ETFMS has only had one other outage which occurred in 2001. The system currently manages up to 36,000 flights a day.”

Expect breathalyzer during German Ramp checks

German authorities confirm they have been conducting random breathalyzer tests during ramp checks since as far back as Jan 2017, despite this not being part of the official EU SAFA ramp inspection guidelines.

In Dec 2016, following the accident of the Germanwings Flight 9525, EASA published a proposal to the European Commission to better support pilot mental fitness. One of their recommendations was to introduce random alcohol screening as a part of ramp checks within the EU.

Although that proposal has still not been adopted yet, local authorities in Germany say they can still perform these tests on the basis of German national law alone.

Have you had a recent ramp check anywhere with any surprise items not part of the standard checklist? Comment below…

Further reading

New route requirements for Iceland

There are some new route requirements for eastbound departures from BIKF/Keflavik and BIRK/Reykjavik. Two new waypoints, PODAR and RAPAX are being introduced from Mar 29 onwards.

Below is the updated version of Iceland AIP ENR 1.8.4.1.3.7 which explains exactly how you should file your flight plans to/from both BIKF and BIRK, and the new routes are highlighted:

To make all this blurb easier to understand, the good folks at Isavia have published some handy graphic presentations of the requirements for eastbound departures from BIKF and BIRK:

If you follow the guidance and flight plan accordingly, you should avoid any nasty last-minute “FPL REJ” messages!

Further reading:

  • You can check the full Iceland AIP online here.
  • For a summary of all the NAT changes, including EGGX/Shanwick, CZQX/Gander, BIRD/Iceland, ENOB/Bodo, LPPO/Santa Maria, and KZWY/New York Oceanic East, click here.

New rules for charter flights to Greece

On Mar 23, the Greek CAA introduced a new rule requiring charter flights on non EU-registered aircraft with up to 19 seats to apply for an annual TCO license before operating to Greece.

This is in addition to having to obtain the standard landing permit, as well as the TCO approval from EASA.

So far, the CAA haven’t officially published an English version of the new rule anywhere, although they say that it will be updated in the AIP at some point. But as handling in Greece is mandatory, they decided to distribute the information to all handling agents & aviation service providers in Greece for them to notify their customers directly.

Click here for the translated version of that document, with all the info you need to know about how to apply.

It looks like you can’t apply for this new TCO license through the CAA directly; you can only do so through your “legal representative in Greece” – which can be your handling agent, allowing at least 5 working days to obtain the license if all submitted paperwork is correct.

Aerolineas aircraft grounded due to hail damage

The Argentinian airline Aerolineas has suspended domestic ticket sales until Mar 25. They say multiple aircraft were recently damaged by hail in SABE/Buenos Aires during a storm on Mar 14, which means they now need to reprogram their schedule until the aircraft get fixed.

The aircraft that sustained the damage were 15 Boeing 737’s in the airline’s domestic and regional fleet. Strangely, perhaps, no other airlines have reported similar damage to their aircraft from the storm.

Aerolineas say they are now assessing the aircraft damage with help from Boeing, with the hope that they will have most of the aircraft back in operation before the Easter travel weekend.

How to survive a French ATC strike

There’s a normal pattern to French ATC strikes – controllers who are unhappy about a range of issues (mainly salaries and labour reforms) announce they plan to take industrial action, Eurocontrol puts a plan in place to mitigate the disruption as best as possible, and airlines start cancelling flights – sometimes voluntarily, other times under the instruction to reduce their schedules.

The Notams that get published prior to these strikes are often the same, and tend to be fairly vague. That’s because they never know exactly how many staff will go on strike until the day itself, when they look around the control room and count the number of empty seats.

Generally though, the smaller airports tend to have the harshest restrictions applied, often with periods where no ATS services are provided at all. During the really big strikes, the larger airports can get hit pretty hard too, and when Notams start getting published saying “MINIMUM SERVICE GUARANTEED”, that’s when you know that things are getting serious – as that basically means that only 50% of FPLs are being accepted (the absolute minimum allowed under French law, regardless of whether or not a strike is taking place).

Each French ATC strike is different, but there are some things that are pretty much the same every time. Here is what you need to know, in order to survive!

Before the strike starts…

For the most accurate pre-tactical info on French ATC strikes, the Eurocontrol page is the best place to go. They will always publish the latest updates in the “Network Headline News” section at the top of the page. They even host teleconferences prior to the strikes, where a bunch of their ATC personnel jump on a call with airlines and other interested parties to discuss what they think will happen, and what plan they have come up with to mitigate disruption.
https://www.public.nm.eurocontrol.int/PUBPORTAL/gateway/spec/

During the strike…

For real-time updates of any airspace issues once the strike has started, keep an eye on this handy French ATC webpage: http://dsnado.canalblog.com/

For smaller airports, best check the Notams directly, as they might get forgotten about in the deluge of information that gets published and endlessly updated for the other larger airports.

Reroutes…

The advice about reroutes during French ATC strikes seems to be almost exactly the same every time. Always double-check the latest info on the Eurocontrol page just in case something is slightly different, but here’s a break-down of what to expect…

TANGO Routes
(Don’t know what these are? Read “The Three Sisters” for more info!)

All the Tango Routes are subject to higher than normal demand when strikes are on.

All flights intending to route to/from Canaries, Madeira and mainland Portuguese and Spanish destinations via the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area (OCA) are usually requested to flight plan via published routes T9, T213 or T16.

Westbound traffic to North/Central American destinations intending to enter the Shanwick OCA via entry points LASNO, TAMEL or OMOKO are usually requested to FPL via BEDRA in order to avoid those entry points associated with Tango routes.

Similarly, westbound traffic to North/Central American destinations and intending to enter the Shanwick OCA via entry points BEGAS, DIXIS, BERUX or PITAX are requested to FPL via PASAS.

Three other things to remember:
1. During the strike period, ATC normally won’t let you cross from one Tango Route to another.
2. If you’re entering the Shanwick OCA, you must have HF radio.
3. For oceanic clearance during the strike, you need to make sure you request your oceanic clearance 40 minutes before entry to the ocean.

Re-routes through Algeria
If you want to avoid French airspace by flying through DAAA/Algeria instead, you can do so – and until the end of the strike, you won’t have to get an overflight permit. Just make sure you send a new FPL (plus any subsequent DLA messages) to DAAAZQZX and DTTCZQZX addresses, as they will not have received the original FPL.

Depending on where you’re flying to/from, here’s what you need to do:

1. All traffic overflying DAAA/Algeria airspace with destination within the LECB/Barcelona FIR must file via point LUXUR at FL300 or above, and at only EVEN flight levels. (Traffic with destination LEPA/Palma via LUXUR should FPL UM134-LUXUR-GENIO-UN859-OSGAL with STAR OSGAL.)

2. All traffic departing from the LECB/Barcelona FIR and overflying DAAA/Algeria must file via point SADAF at FL310 or above, and at only ODD flight levels.

3. All traffic departing from LEPA/Palma to any airport in DAAA/Algeria must file max FL290 over point SADAF. Departures from LEPA/Palma must also file SID MEBUT: MEBUT-NINES-UM134-OLMIR-UN861-SADAF at FL290.

4. Entering GMMM/Morocco via DTTC/Tunisia and DAAA/Algeria:

  • Route: DOPEL UM126 KAWKA UG14 CSO UA31 CHE should be used. DAAA/Algeria ATC will tactically approve direct routing to ALR where possible.
  • Route: DOPEL DCT LUXUR SADAF CHE cannot be planned.

5. Entering DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia then LIRR/Italy from GMMM/Morocco:

  • Route: CHE UA31 CSO UG14 KAWKA UM126 DOPEL shall be used. DAAA/Algeria ATC will tactically approve direct routing from ALR where possible.
  • Route: Traffic between DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia via SADAF-KAWKA at FL300 and above (only even flight levels).

Re-routes through Tunisia
Tunisia also let operators fly through their airspace when there’s a French ATC strike on, without having to get a permit. Just make sure you copy your FPL (plus any subsequent DLA messages) to DTTCZQZX and DTTCZRZX.

Even when there’s no strike going on, there are a bunch of routes you can use through DTTC/Tunisia airspace that do not require overflight permission. These are:

a) Traffic between DTTC/Tunisia and DAAA/Algeria via DOPEL-LUXUR at FL310 and above (only ‘odd’ flight levels)

b) Traffic between DAAA/Algeria and DTTC/Tunisia via SADAF-KAWKA-DOPEL at FL300 and above (only ‘even’ flight levels)

During the strike, they also open up routes connecting LMMM/Malta with DAAA/Algeria, for flights from Europe to Africa and South America. For that, you should file FPL using following routes:

  • Route: PAN – BIRSA – ELO (after ELO traffic can fly DCT GHA) at FL195-465 to be filed for traffic destination West Africa and South America, or
  • Route: PAN – RALAK – EBA at FL195-465 to be filed for traffic destination South/South West of Africa.

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 two exceptions we’ve spotted are:
1. In March 2018, Saudi Arabia started giving Air India permission to use its airspace on flights between VIDP/Delhi and LLBG/Tel Aviv, thus marking the end of the 70-year airspace ban that Saudi Arabia had in place against flights to/from Israel.
2. Sudan, who regularly 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!

Kurdistan airports to re-open

The Iraqi Prime Minister has lifted the government ban on international flights to the Kurdish airports ORER/Erbil and ORSU/Sulaymaniyah.

The central government will take full control of the airports, and will start allowing international flights to resume in the coming days. No international flights have operated from these airports since the end September 2017. Their closure was seen as a punitive measure taken by the Iraqi central government following the September 25th independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region.

The authorities have now withdrawn the Notams that were previously in place for both of these airports advising that they were closed to international flights. Both Iran and Turkey currently still have Notams in place prohibiting flights to these airports from using their airspace – but we expect these to be updated soon to reflect the lifting of the ban.

A0661/18 NOTAMR A6765/17
Q) LTXX/QAFXX/IV/NBO/E /000/999/3901N03524E465
A) LTAA LTBB B) 1802010551 C) 1803312359 EST
E) ALL TFC FROM/TO ORSU AND ORER AERODROMES (ALSO AS ALTERNATE
AERODROME) ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO USE TURKISH AIRSPACE UNTIL FURTHER
NOTICE EXC EMERGENCY, AMBULANCE AND HUMANITARIAN AID FLIGHTS.
A0223/18 NOTAMR A3746/17
Q) OIIX/QAFXX/E/000/999/
A) OIIX B) 1801160610 C) 1804160600 EST
E) ALL TRAFFIC FM OR TO ORSU AND ORER ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO USE
TEHRAN FIR.

Further reading:

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