International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Briefings (page 1 of 21)

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The authorities have now withdrawn the Notams that were previously in place for both of these airports advising that they were closed to international flights.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
A0223/18 NOTAMR A3746/17
Q) OIIX/QAFXX/E/000/999/
A) OIIX B) 1801160610 C) 1804160600 EST

Further reading:

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.

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, 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:

Here’s what pilots and controllers REALLY think about Notams

We think Notams suck. No other way to say it. After a few articles we wrote (BS Notams, The Notam Goat Show, and more worryingly, the MH17 Notam problem), we got some feedback in the comments section. And thought we should share, because they really show the problem. So, here they are.

Caution, some strong language!

We’re working on a solution, so you can help and add your thoughts as a comment below. Also, send us the really bad ones and enter the 2018 Notam Goat Show contest.


Personally I think taxiway and apron closure NOTAMs are too readable, I think they should be distributed in RADIAL/DME format, or perhaps raw Lat-Lon. Additionally, time should be specified in seconds since the founding of the FAA.

TAXIWAY CLOSED BETWEEN ORL180/08.5DME ORL181/08.6DME ORL181/08.65DME ORL180/08.65DME FROM 1829088020S to 1829190200S

What could be more clear than that?

I wonder if a buried Notam ever did contribute to bent metal, injury, or death? I agree that the volume of nuisance notams is a real task to read through wether it be a long or short turn. However, nothing will be done till there is blood. That’s how the FAA works. Till then, its on us to be like aviation lawyers before every flight regardless of schedule.

Maybe we can get them in binary?

You have to go to binary first, then convert to Morse.

01010100 01000001 01011000 01001001 01010111 01000001 01011001 00100000 01000011 01001100 01001111 01010011 01000101 01000100 00100000 01000010

—– .—- —– .—- —– .—- —– —– —– .—- —– —– —– —– —– .—- —– .—- —– .—- .—- —– —– —– —– .—- —– —– .—- —– —– .—- —– .—- —– .—- —– .—- .—- .—- —–

For good measure they should be put through an Enigma machine, too. And the output formatted to wingdings

Yes. The NOTAM system is fucked. We have Notams about those solar arrays near Vegas in every flight plan. Yes, I see them. I want to know if the damn runway is closed. Why the weird coding? Is it to make pilots feel multi-lingual?

It’s funny, they seem to have every little f*ing detail about towers that are under 400 agl 20 miles either side of my route with one light bulb missing but I can’t get a god damn reliable source for f*ing TFRs. Even the piece of shit FAA website for TFRs is not a “complete and accurate source” but some guy in a FSS station is?????? Such complete and utter bullshit.

The reason nobody reads NOTAMs is because they are mostly garbage.
Why do I care that a crane that is 200 feet AGL ten miles from any airport is unlit? We can’t fly below 500AGL anyway.
Why do I have to decipher code that can easily be written as: From 20170608 1900Z to 20170610 0000Z CYYZ Taxiway L Closed
The system is broken and nobody cares to fix it.

I f*in’ love doing a flight from Newark to DC and getting notams about the North Atlantic Tracks. Motherf***r, if I end up on the tracks during that leg in a 145, the Notams are the least of my damn problems.

The biggest frustration for me is the NOTAMs don’t match reality. KAUS often NOTAMs a runway closed for several hours a couple days each week. Yet we get there and it’s open.
Or an airport will NOTAM an ILS out of service for the day. Show up at the airport and they’re using that ILS.
My home airport is KDAL. One of the PAPIs was out for three days before they NOTAM’d it out of service. Delta landing in front of me asked about it. Tower said they showed it on and asked me. I said, “Uh… It’s been out for several days. I thought y’all knew?”
Finally, my favorite: Surprise runway closures for routine runway inspections. NOTAM? Nah. BTW there’s a 150′ tower 15 miles away with a light out and there’s birds around the airport. Awesome.

I can honestly say that if it isn’t a runway closure or terminal closure then I don’t really care. The amount of closed taxiways at every airport is absurd. Not to mention many of them are closed year round with no intention of opening them again, just a permanent NOTAM.

Can only agree. It has been raised at the RAPACs, but no progress to date.

If I’m 5nm from the ARP at 150′ AGL, then I have more things to worry about than a crane without a red light…

Ass-covering gone mad. Really… a tree

FROM 01 310536 TO 03 300500 EST

My personal favourite is the “trigger notam” cross-referencing to yet another unfindable / unreadable pile of nonsense.
Just tell us what matters to an “Airman”; today and leave the grand plan, 12 month projection crap out of NOTAMS.

All of this so true, I imagine a world of technology and wonder (ozrunways/avplan/anything but airservices/casa))where we can quickly read a Notam and weather briefing without having to nut it out and do a slow-ass flight plan every time. 2017 and we still cant embrace all the tech.

I totally agree. The last thing any crew is going to be able to do when checking NOTAMs before departure is to magic up a way to access cross-referenced documents in various other publications. Especially when the departure point is not anywhere near base ops, or even any other operations centre.

B.S. NOTAMS….100% concur. Our whole world of aviation is being swamped by similar legal ass-covering paperwork. How can ANY pilot be expected to remember all the additional codicils that do NOTHING to improve safety of flight, but rather give an army of lawyers and providers more chances to fleece an already cash-strapped industry?…..Rant over!

Congratulations, its our industry, the users should be heard.
Start with a blank sheet of paper, what do we want to know in a “NOTAM” and how best to communicate it in a cockpit / in a flight briefing package. If the current format was frozen in 1924, the next system needs to be good for a couple of years.

This information ceased to be “NOTAMs” long ago. Today they are “NOTOLs”, Notice To Litigants. Thanks for making an effort to change this ancient system.

How many pilots out there actually read ever Head Office Notams or even daily Notams in meticulous detail? Few (if any). You sign on an hour before departure, there is simply not enough time to divulge all the ass covering crap that’s generated daily. Airline companies only want one thing, OTP; how a pilot goes about that they couldn’t care less as long as you don’t break any rules! NOTAMS = “None Other Than Aircraft Missing Slots”

You can bet your life, the one you needed to see at 3 in the morning was the one you missed! Any wonder…

So, If you don’t tell me that, I will land recklessly..

You are a mind reader.
You captured the issue perfectly and the historical context was excellent. While airspace and aircraft have all continued to develop our most basic system of communicating the status of an airport/airspace has not. I could take that further and say communication with ATC is still by AFTN for the most part.So now put yourself in the position of dispatcher/FOO working a series of long haul ETOPS Flight. You might have 20 or more departure /Take off alternate station notams, a whole galaxy of FIR/UIR Notams, not to mention all of the ETOP alternates and if you re-dispatch/re-analysis, you will get to do it inflight once again. Now do that 15-20 times depending on workload. Can you say human data saturation?
This article certainly illustrates the infrastructure issues we face, but it doesn’t come close explaining some of the processes and procedures we have had to put in place to ensure:
1. That we actually get NOTAMS.
2. That we get airport conditions as some countries don’t put them out as Series-S ICAO NOTAM versus Series-A (Yes, theses are the countries that haven’t fully adopted ICAO standards which were adopted in 1944 and ratified in 1947 by the Chicago convention).
Question: What is the current year?

I absolutely agree. My personal bugbear is those lists of co-ordinates …. do they think anyone actually plots them on a map? They might as well not be published at all.

What is clear is the professional approach to the information received: too many inputs, disorderly given, contextually irrelevant, redundant and unusable. A kind of “cry wolf” syndrome, making the pilot complacent about such a bullshit. The very day someone of us is caught in a legal battle for a system-induced mistake leading to a incident, overlooking the NOTAMs will not appear as an excuse. How to make these information valuable?

Yes… and why oh why are we still using the coded TAF language. We don’t have bandwidth issues anymore. We take plain English, code it, then decode it back to plain English. Surely a TAF written in plain English is not too hard a transition.

We train the pilots of tomorrow, they are inundated with everything the industry throws at them and the unintelligible Nonsense contained in some NOTAMS are just another accident waiting to happen. With all the technology at our disposal today, the filtering systems, electronics messages systems, integration tools and smart people to think about it, there is a solution out there. I suppose we just need to make enough noise in the right places to make a change. Oh well best we get started. hmmm, perhaps a NOTAM about change is needed.

And don’t forget about TFR’s that pop up. The one time I didn’t look at TFRs I got trapped having to divert from Chicago to an outlying airport even though we were part135 and even though we got an IFR clearance and the tower gave us takeoff permission. And center control for an hour just kept passing us on.

How about a change in the format of NOTAMS too, so we don’t have to wade through the whole lot in order to parse the relevant information. NOTAMS are removed when thy are no longer valid, so why cling to chronological order as an indexing system. How about putting them in order of critical relevance: Firstly, changes to airfield opening hours and services (fire, fuel etc). Secondly, changes to runway lengths/closures/etc. Thirdly, changes to approaches available. All the rest can be thrown into the mix at the end of the NOTAM.

Excellent analysis. My personal favorite is the NOTAM sort order which tells me that the REIL lights don’t work, the glideslope is out, the runway markings are non-standard, the localizer is out… ending with: runway closed. Tell me that first, all the other BS becomes irrelevant.

About two days before I saw this post, I’d sent a long email to my company telling them of the NOTAMs we don’t need to see. Then I saw this. Brilliant! I’ve just sent the link to this piece to the company to reinforce that opinion. I’m hoping our briefing pack will be several pages thinner the next time I go to dispatch.

I have come up with a name for this problem: “NOTAM Spam”. It’s a serious one, alright — ASRS Callback #426 brought it up in the context of the US NAS, and I’m sure it’s only worse for international operations. It sounds like ICAO needs to put out a recommendation or SARP about NOTAM spam control…

95% of Notam’s we read are not applicable, or nothing can be done about them. Oh great, I’ll pull out my chart and plot the 25 co-ordinates to see if this airspace will affect my flight -_- that’s one Notam example from plenty of the same type, in the same Notam briefing. Now add the other irrelevant Notam types as mentioned by others in the comments.

Thanks for the article. I shared it with my fellow dispatchers at AAL. We read pages and pages of BS notams on a daily basis and wondered if anyone else had similar feelings about the whole process.


Post your thoughts below! 

France Conditional Routes

Having fun in France airspace on peak days? France has just published their list of Conditional Routes (CTRs). You’ll be able to use these on busy Fridays and certain holidays:

FRI 20 APR, 27 APR ;
FRI 04 MAY, 11 MAY, 18 MAY, 25 MAY
FRI 01 JUN, 08 JUN, 15 JUN, 22 JUN, 29 JUN
FRI 06 JUL, 13 JUL, 20 JUL, 27 JUL
FRI 03 AUG, 10 AUG, 17 AUG, 24 AUG, 31 AUG
FRI 07 SEP, 14 SEP, 21 SEP, 28 SEP
FRI 05 OCT, 12 OCT, 19 OCT, 26 OCT.

From 1000-1500UTC, the following will have priorty for General Aviation Traffic:

UL722 (ANNET-KORUL above FL275)
UP620 (CAMBO-KORUL above FL275)
UN862 (UVUDO-OSMOB above FL 285)
UT21 (TOU-DIVKO above FL335)


From 0700-1700UTC:


You can read the full AIP SUP 025/18 here.

Happy Valentines Day!

We took the day here at FSB to make you all some sweet Valentines Day cards. We think we did pretty well, and we know you all love aviation puns.

Print them out, fold them out, and you’re done planning your Valentines Day!

I’m Plane Crazy About You!
Our Love will never stall…
You’re the Prist to my Jet-A
It’s Plane to see, you’ve got me in a tailspin

If you’d like all four, you can get them here.


Happy Valentines Day!

List of approved airports when operating to/from Israel

For a PDF version of this AIC, click here.

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