International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Author: David Mumford (page 2 of 7)

Venezuela crisis: government bans flights to Netherlands Antilles

Amidst a deepening political and economic crisis across Venezuela, on 8th March 2018, the government announced a ban on all commercial passenger and cargo flights to the Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, until further notice.

There are shortages of food and many basic goods across Venezuela. The government claim they have imposed this new ban to help prevent smuggling, and to deter the thousands of Venezuelans who they say regularly leave the country to buy and sell goods abroad.

In reality, the situation is far more grim. Since the start of 2018, there have numerous reports of boats full of starving Venezuelans, many of which left the country illegally, turning up on the shores of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. The U.N. is now warning of a humanitarian “catastrophe”, as worsening food shortages have seen looting and protests escalate over the past few months, claiming the lives of at least seven people so far.

In recent weeks, Colombia has tightened controls along it’s border with Venezuela, to try to curb the flow of thousands of migrants seeking to escape.

All operators, in particular those with an N-reg on the tail, should be aware of the rapidly deepening crisis in Venezuela. Here’s a summary of the current situation:

SVMI/Caracas Airport

  • The airport is located in an extremely high-risk area for armed robbery and kidnappings. Before suspending all flights to Venezuela in Aug 2017, Avianca hired bodyguards after shots were fired during a robbery of a bus carrying its crew. Some other carriers took to flying crew to spend the night in neighbouring countries, rather than risk staying overnight anywhere in Caracas. In Feb 2018, Ecuadorian state airline Tame joined Avianca in a long list of airlines that no longer operate to the country, including: Aerolineas Airlines, United Airlines, Aeromexico, Lufthansa, Alitalia and Air Canada. Most reports estimate that international traffic in Venezuela has dropped by around 65-75% since its peak in 2013.
  • Reports of airport officials detaining some passengers for long periods, often demanding bribes and confiscating personal items. The US have warned that “security forces have arbitrarily detained U.S. citizens for long periods”, and that “the U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.”
  • Colombia’s pilots’ association says its members who have flown to Venezuela have had to deal with contaminated fuel and hours-long delays as the National Guard pulls suitcases off flights to loot them.
  • On Aug 8, 2017, a Venezuelan lawyer was shot dead at a ticket counter at SVMI/Caracas airport. In 2016, an Egyptian visitor was killed walking outside the airport between terminals after arriving on a flight from Germany.
  • Frequent power and water cut across the country. The airport suffered power cuts in Dec 2017 and again in Mar 2018, forcing the suspension of all ops for several hours each time.

Travel advice   Western countries are all now recommending against “all but essential travel”. A large majority of airline carriers have now stopped operating to Venezuela, for a mix of reasons – not least because onward payment of ticket monies have been stopped by the Venezuelan government. The US describes the greatest current risks as social unrest, violent crime, pervasive food and medicine shortages, and the arbitrary arrest and detention on U.S. citizens.

Sanctions   Both the EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Venezuela, with specific restrictions on President Maduro himself. This creates an uncertain situation for foreign aircraft operating in Venezuelan airspace. So far there have not been any reported cases of any retaliatory sanctions, such as grounding of foreign aircraft, although with the crisis worsening, such measures are not out of the question.

Notable withdrawals   On August 1st, the UK Foreign Office followed the US in withdrawing family of personnel from their respective embassies. This is a common precursor to a deeper security risk, and in the last 5 years we’ve seen this pattern in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Then in Jan 2018, IATA closed its offices in Venezuela. They said that the exchange controls the government placed on taking money out of the country effectively left it with a debt to IATA of $3.8 billion, which it refused to pay.

Flight Ops   See below on overflight. There were interruptions to Notam and Metar service throughout 2017. At one point it appeared that SV** had lost its connection to the international AFTN system.

Airport Spy   The most recent OpsGroup member reports are not encouraging. The top report on SVMI is titled “Hazardous in Caracas”: “The operating conditions in Caracas have deteriorated to a new level. New ATC controllers that have been installed in the last few months do not speak English very well, if at all, and in some cases and they are issuing clearances not appropriate for IFR or terrain clearance. Tremendous caution should be exercised especially when moving internally within Venezuela. SVMI authorities are now demanding to see the complete insurance policy for the aircraft, not just proof of insurance. We had Spanish speaking personnel with us and when we questioned a local SVMI controller about not using English, his response was that we should all be speaking Spanish! “. More in AirportSpy. If you’ve been through recently, add your report.

Overflight   Operations through Venezuelan airspace do not require an overflight permit, and so there have been no incidences recorded of US aircraft being denied a permit. However, on several occasions in the last month, Venezuela has for short periods arbitrarily closed its airspace to overflying aircraft. A common problem with Venezuelan overflight is the denial of airspace entry due to unpaid navigation fees, which is why checking this in advance is recommended. This may be a tool used to deny US aircraft entry in the future. Plan operations through the SVZM/Maiquetia FIR with caution. To be clear, we do not assess any risk to enroute aircraft, but be mindful of the fact that if you do enter SVZM airspace, you may end up diverting to an SV** airport. Right now, that’s not ideal.

Avoiding Venezuela  If you elect to avoid SVZM airspace…

To the west:
– via Colombia (SKED/Bogota FIR) – permit required for all overflights.
– watch out if planning a flight through the TNCF/Curacao FIR – although a permit to overfly is not required here, they have started denying entry to non-IATA members if they have not prepaid for navigation fees in advance. More on that here.

To the east:
– via Guyana (SYGC/Georgetown FIR) – permit not required
– via Suriname (SMPM/Paramaribio FIR) – permit required
– via French Guyana (SOOO/Rochambeau FIR) – permit required unless operating a GA aircraft under 12.5k lbs.

For more detailed info on each country’s specific permit requirements, take a look here.

If you need a tech stop and previously used/considered SVMI, then look at alternatives like TNCC, TTPP, SBEG, SMJP. Use the OpsGroup planning map to figure your best alternate options.

Sao Paulo’s second airport to regain international status… for nine days

For the first time in over twenty years, the city’s second airport, SBSP/Congonhas, will be open to international flights, from 9-18th March 2018.

This is happening as the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2018 will be taking place in Sao Paulo from Mar 13-15, and as space is limited at the main airport, SBGR/Sao Paulo International, the authorities think they’ll need extra space for attendees’ aircraft. So at SBSP/Congonhas, only BA/GA will be accepted, and nothing larger than 737BBJ / A319ACJ.

This will also serve as a trial period to check if the airport could regain its international status on a permanent basis. Scheduled international flights stopped operating from Cogonhas back in 1985, and the airport finally lost its international status in 2008.

The airport’s runways were resurfaced last resurfaced back in 2007, but were not extended because of the rapid growth of Sao Paulo, which has now completely surrounded the airport. The longest runway is 1940 meters, and the airport is open from 07-23 local time, seven days a week.

Price hike at Greek airports

On 1st April 2018, Fraport will be increasing the rates for landing and parking fees at the 14 international airports it manages in Greece: Aktion, Chania, Corfu, Kavala, Kefalonia, Kos, Lesbos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos, Thessaloniki and Zakynthos.

Parking charges used to be simple here: at every airport, it was free for the first five hours, and then EUR 1.08 per ton (MTOW) for every 24 hours after that. That same price applied regardless of aircraft size.

Now things are set to become a little more complicated, but effectively, parking will now be at least twice as expensive as it used to be, with even higher costs being introduced for longer stays during the summer months:

 

Landing fees are going up too. Aircraft below 10 tonnes have always had to pay a flat fee, and from 1st April, these are set to double. For larger aircraft, Fraport set the rate per ton (MTOW), and with the exception of LGKV/Kevala and LGSA/Chania, these are being increased across the board:

Operating to these Greek airports has become increasingly challenging since their privatisation in April 2017. Fraport initially struggled to deal with providing parking to non-scheduled and business aviation, and new slot procedures were introduced to try to better manage the volume of requests being made.

Ryanair have already complained about the price hike, as well as a new EUR 90 fee that will be charged to send a fire engine every time a plane refuels whilst passengers are being boarded – something which they say does not happen anywhere else in the world except Greece.

With the new rates set to come into force on 1st April 2018, many operators may prefer to take their business elsewhere. As the President of Corfu CAA Association, Dimitris Roussos, says – “[the price increase] is exorbitant and almost prohibitive. A lot of people will choose other airports such as Ioannina which have lower charges and where they can refuel and spend 1-2 days instead of coming to ‘expensive’ Corfu. It is quite probable that we will see the Corfu Air Club move to Ioannina as well as a significant decrease in the number of small private aircraft visiting Corfu in the summer.”

Full details of the changes to the landing and parking fees at all 14 airports can be found on Fraport’s dedicated page.

French ATC Strike March 2018

A French ATC strike is due to take place from 18z on Mar 21 until 05z on Mar 23, and it looks like it’s going to be a bad one.

En-route regulations are expected to applied across all sectors – which means big delays pretty much everywhere for overflying traffic. Minimum service will be guaranteed only at the following airports:

LFPG/Paris Charles de Gaulle
LFPO/Paris Orly
LFSB/Basel
LFST/Strasbourg
LFLL/Lyon
LFLC/Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne
LFMN/Nice
LFML/Marseille
LFKB/Bastia
LFKC/Calvi
LFKJ/Ajaccio
LFBD/Bordeaux
LFBI/Poitiers–Biard
LFBL/Limoges
LFBO/Toulouse Blagnac
LFRG/Deauville–Normandie
LFRS/Nantes
and overseas airports

For all other airports, ATS services may not be provided at all at certain times – and you’ll probably need to check the airport’s own Notams for any signs of that.

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/

And click here for everything else you need to know about how to survive French ATC strikes!

Kenya airspace threat downgraded

The FAA has revised its warning for Kenyan airspace – the area to ‘exercise caution’ is now limited only to that airspace east of 40 degrees East longitude below FL260 (i.e. the border region with Somalia). Prior to this, their warning applied to all airspace in Kenya below FL260.

Published on 26 Feb 2018, the warning maintains the same wording to clarify the type of weapons and phases of flight that the FAA is concerned about, specifically:

  • fire from small arms,
  • indirect fire weapons (such as mortars and rockets), and
  • anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS.

The scenarios considered highest risk include :

  • landings and takeoffs,
  • low altitudes, and
  • aircraft on the ground.

The updated guidance is intended for US operators and FAA License holders, but in reality is used by most International Operators including EU and Asian carriers, since only four countries currently provide useful information on airspace security and conflict zones.

The Notam uses FL260 as the minimum safe level, though we would suggest, as usual, that a higher level closer to FL300 is more sensible.

You can read the NOTAM in full on our Kenya page on SafeAirspace.net, a collaborative and information sharing tool used by airlines, business jet operators, state agencies, military, and private members of OPSGROUP.

More direct routings across Europe

Sectors of airspace over southern Germany are ahead of schedule with plans to bring in Free Route Airspace (FRA). With effect from 1st March 2018, FRA will be implemented in the EDUU/Karlsruhe UAC, EDWW/Bremen ACC , and EDMM/Munchen ACC above FL245.

By the end of 2019, most European airspace is expected to have implemented Free Route Airspace, with all airspace having this type of operations by 2021/2022.

We like the idea of Free Route Airspace – direct routing is the way of the future. We also like cool maps. Thankfully, good old Eurocontrol have provided us with some great ones, showing where Free Route Airspace currently exists, and where it will be implemented in the future:

For everything you could possibly want to know about FRA in Europe, check out Eurocontrol’s page on it here: http://www.eurocontrol.int/articles/free-route-airspace

Indonesia mandates ADS-B above FL290

Since the start of Jan 2018, all aircraft flying in Indonesian airspace at or above FL290 need to be equipped with ADS-B (Mode S Transponder and GNSS source position). Below that flight level, it remains optional.

Indonesian airspace is split into two FIR’s – WIIF/Jakarta and WAAF/Ujung Pandang:

To the north, Singapore have required the carriage of ADS-B on certain airways since 2013; and to the south, Australia have mandated ADS-B for all airspace above FL290 since early 2017. So there’s a vast section of connected airspace in the region where ADS-B is now required.

For flight planning, make sure you show the correct ADS-B designators in Item 10 of the FPL:

  • E – Transponder — Mode S, including aircraft identification, pressure – altitude and ADS – B Out capability.
    or…
  • – Transponder—Mode S, including aircraft identification,pressure-altitude,ADS-B Out and enhanced surveillance capability.
    together with…
  • B1  ADS-B “out” capability using 1090MHz extended squitter.
    or…
  • B2  ADS-B “out” and “in” capability using 1090MHz extended squitter.

Further reading:

New slot procedure at VIDP/Delhi

All flights to/from VIDP/Delhi Airport now need to get slots approved, and for international flights, you can only apply for these up to a maximum of 5 days in advance.

They’re calling these slots “Delhi Arrival Clearance Numbers” (DACN) for arrivals, and “Delhi Departure Clearance Numbers” (DDCN) for departures, and you can apply for them by emailing flight.data@gmrgroup.in and copying-in dial.aocc@gmrgroup.in.

Make sure you put your slot number in Item 18 of your FPL. If you miss your slot time by more than 30 minutes, expect to have to re-apply for a completely new slot.

Also, watch out for long stays – the maximum ground time for everything except scheduled flights is now 3 days, unless you go into a hangar.

Full details of these new rules can be found here.

Greenland FIR to change its name

The BGGL/Sondrestrom FIR, that covers all of Greenland’s airspace, is changing its name to the ‘Nuuk’ FIR, effective Mar 1.

This name change has come about following the reallocation, during autumn 2014, of the COM Centre, Rescue Coordination Centre and the Flight Information Centre from BGSF/Kangerlussuaq Airport (commonly referred to as Sondrestrom airport) to Greenland’s capital, Nuuk.

So “Nuuk Information” is the new identification/radio callsign for the aeronautical station serving the Flight Information Centre in Greenland; whereas “Nuuk AFIS” will still get you through to the aerodrome flight information service at BGGH/Nuuk Airport.

You can read the full AIC here.

Further reading:

  • Do you use BGBW/Narsarsuaq as a trans-atlantic alternate? Watch out, you may receive a hefty bill. Full details here.

Tel Aviv Airport closes as a precaution against attack

LLBG/Tel-aviv: Israel’s main airport briefly suspended operations on Feb 10, due to military clashes along the northern border with Syria.

Two Israeli pilots were forced to abandon their F-16 jet, which crashed near the border after being hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. The jet was on a mission in which it struck an Iranian facility in Syria that had previously operated a drone which Israel shot down over its territory.

This resulted in all flights from LLBG/Tel-aviv Airport being grounded for around an hour starting at 9am local time, as a precaution against any further attacks. The airport is considered a strategic location that could be targeted during military conflict.

Here’s what Israel’s PM had to say about it:

This incident marks the most significant engagement by Israel in the fighting that has been taking place in neighbouring Syria since 2011. Israel has mostly stayed out of the conflict so far, but has recently become more concerned about the increased Iranian presence along its border.

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