International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Briefings (page 1 of 26)

Africa: Hajj 2018 routes in operation

From 19JUL, the Hajj routes for 2018 will take effect.

What are Hajj routes?
Every year, millions of pilgrims travel to Mecca and other sites in Saudi Arabia – and this changes the predominant traffic flow over the African continent. ATC in the FIR’s most affected put in place standard routings to help flow that traffic.

Normally, traffic is very much north-south predominant, with Europe-Africa flights being the main flow. When Hajj operations start up, a good amount of traffic starts operating east-west (ie. Africa-Saudi Arabia and vice versa), and this is something to be aware of when cruising along at FL330 with spotty HF comms.

So, in addition to the normal IFBP belt and braces on 126.9, keep an eye out for a much higher amount of crossing traffic during the coming months.

The FIR’s affected are: Algiers, Accra, Brazzaville, Dakar, Jeddah, Kano, Khartoum, N’Djamena, Niamey, Roberts, and Tripoli.

The Hajj routings are contained in this ASECNA AIP Supplement.

Further reading:

Attention Shanghai: Typhoon inbound, jets must move out

Update 23 July: Both Shanghai airports ZSPD/Pudong and ZSSS/Hongqiao are operating normally again following the passage of Storm Ampil over the weekend, which forced the cancellation of nearly 800 flights. Both airports are accepting applications from GA/BA flights again. The storm is now continuing to dissipate as it moves northwards overland towards ZBAA/Beijing, but maximum gusting winds now down to around 35kts.

Tropical Storm Ampil is heading towards China. The storm is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 typhoon before making landfall on Japan’s Ryukyu Islands on Saturday. Ampil is then expected to veer northwest toward China’s east coast. As of now, Shanghai is in the storm’s direct path.

Both Shanghai airports ZSPD/Pudong and ZSSS/Hongqiao are now advising Business and corporate aviation operators of the following:

  1. All GA aircraft parked at the airports must depart before 1200L on 21 July.
  2. All landing and parking requests of GA aircraft at the airports will be rejected from 0001L 21 July until 23 July (when the storm is expected to have passed).
  3. Operators should report outbound schedules of GA aircraft parked at the airports as soon as possible before 1700L on 20 July.

Best to get in touch with your FBO if you haven’t already.

Keep us updated if you are in the region and have more updates!

Extra Information and latest warning text’s and graphics:

Aircraft security search now a requirement departing France

Update July 20th: Looks like this is not only happening in France, but some other EU countries too: we’ve had reports of the same procedure being required at some airports in Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands. If you have any further knowledge or recent experience to share, please let us know!

According to various reports we’ve had from Business Aviation aircrew and handlers, as of July 16, all aircraft departing specific French airports are now required to have completed a security search before departure, and to complete a form to be left with the handler. This applies to all aircraft unless the previous departure point was one of the following:

  • 28 countries of the European Union + Norway / Iceland / Switzerland / Lichtenstein
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Isle of Man
  • Montenegro
  • Faeroe Islands
  • Guernsey and Jersey

This new rule applies to all aircraft, no matter the country of registration or status (private, commercial or charter).

The security search is basically to check that no “prohibited articles” are on board (the usual things – guns, explosives, etc.). It’s common practice amongst airlines, but seems until now not to have been enforced as a rule for business aviation or private operations.

Once completed, this form must then be given to the ground handler, who will store it, in case the French authorities want to see it at some point.

It seems this new procedure is governed by an EU directive that was published in 2015, namely: the European decision (UE) C (2015) 8005 (Appendix 3-A) and the regulation (UE n°2015/1998 (Appendix 3-B32). Who would have thought that a new rule with such a tantalising name as this could go unnoticed until now ?

So it seems that all EU countries should be implementing this new procedure, but so far only certain French airports have done so – the ones we know about so far are:


(Quite possibly the reason that it’s only French airports which have implemented the new procedure is that it was something that was cited in a French national audit conducted in Nov 2017!)

Can the handler provide the crew with a “security search” form?
Answer – Probably not. As the security search is done by the crew, it’s down to the operator to provide the form – the only responsibility of the handler is to receive it signed from the Captain and store it, that’s it.

What about flights that have arrived from the United Kingdom ?
Answer – You won’t need to do the search, as the UK is still part of the EU… for now! We will wait and see what their status will be once the “Brexit” happens, but until then, no worries 🙂

If a flight is operating PART 135 Air Ambulance, would they be subject to this search as well ?
Answer – Yes, if they arrived in from somewhere other than those countries mentioned above. The procedure is linked to where the aircraft came from, not to the aircraft reg or its status (be it commercial, private, charter, cargo, air ambulance, quick-turn, night-stop, fuel stop, transit flight, etc).

What kind of info should be in the form?
Answer – This kind of info:
Flight Information: Flight number / Date / Aircraft Number / Airport of Origin / Airport of Destination
Aircraft Interior: Flight Deck / Storage Area in the Galleys / Lavatories / Catering Trolley and Containers / Seat Pockets / Area Under the Seats / Area Between Seats / Area Between Seats and Bulkheads/ Jump Seats / Trash Bins / Overhead compartments / Pax and Crew Storage Compartment.
Between 5 and 10% of the life vest bags are to be checked as well.
Aircraft Exterior: Aircraft Holds / Service Panels / Bays / Wheel Wells / Fuselage / Engines / AOG Spare in Hold
Search Information : The search must be performed by a member of the cockpit crew. The name of the Captain must appear on the form as well as the date and a place for him/her to sign the document.

You probably have a standard form in your OEM for something like this. But if not, then fear not! The good folks at Signature have provided us with a standard template. Click the image below to download!

If you have any further knowledge or recent experience to share, please let us know!

Further reading:

Eruption possible: Öræfajökull volcano, Iceland

The Department of Civil and Emergency Management in Iceland have issued a new status for Öræfajökull volcano saying that it shows clear signs of unrest. They added that the volcano is in typical preparation stage before an eruption.

For more than 250 years Öræfajökull has been lying dormant. The volcano is covered with an ice cap which forms the southernmost part of Vatnajökull glacier. The cauldron formed last winter in the ice cap of the volcano’s crater.

The mountain stands at 2,110 m (6,921 ft) above sea-level.

If it does erupt – it has the potential to cause significant impact to aviation across the Atlantic. We all still remember Eyjafjallajökull !

You can keep updated by keeping an eye on

Italy ATC strike CANCELLED

Update 17 July: The 24hr ATC strike planned for July 21 has now been CANCELLED.

Controllers at all the ACC sectors were planning to take part, and additional strikes were planned at the local level at at the following airports: LIRA/Rome Ciampino, LIRF/Rome Fiumicino, LIEE/Cagliari, LICC/Catania, LICA/Lamezia, LICJ/Palermo, LIBP/Pescara, LIPZ/Venice

But now the strike has been cancelled. Normal ops now expected at all ACC’s and airports across the country.

Further reading:

  • All the latest official information about Italy ATC strikes can be found here. Just make sure you have your Google Translate tool enabled on your browser!

Islands of the South Atlantic – enroute ETOPS and diversion options

Operating a flight across the South Atlantic is complicated by very limited en-route diversion options.

There are only really three airports worth considering between Brazil and Africa, south of the equator. All have their own complexities.

Your three best bets:

NameRAF Ascension IslandSt HelenaFernando De Noronha
RWY Dimensions3054m x 46m1850m x 45m1845m x 45m
Airport of EntryYesYesNo
GA/BizAv handlers/capabilitiesNo- closed to all commercial and privately owned aircraft except in emergency situations.YesYes
Fuel Jet A1Jet A1Jet A1- only available to Brazilian Military aircraft
Any other procedures/considerationsMilitary facility. Limited instrument approach’s. High terrain. Runway beyond its life cycle. Subject to ‘severe windshear’. Runway on top of hill. Good instrument approach options to both runways. Good facilities on the ground for passengers (if required). Limited ground handling and parking. Scheduled commercial flights regularly. Good facilities for passengers. Not suitable for wide-body ops.

Operational Considerations:

FHAW/RAF Ascension Island

Wideawake Airfield (FHAW) is a military facility operated jointly by the USAF and the RAF. Under the terms of the joint agreement, only state aircraft are authorized to land at Ascension. A monthly RAF flight arrives from the UK and weekly USAF C17 movement occurs.

We have also been advised by local authorities that “the runway is beyond its life cycle and we have imposed aircraft maximum weight limitations on its use to extend its operation”.

Because of these restrictions, passenger links to/from UK were stopped.

To file as an ETOPS/EDTO alternate or not?

The official line is here.

“The US Air Force has agreed its airfields may be identified as ETOPS emergency landing sites for flight planning purposes. This is consistent with the policy that an aircraft can land at any US Air Force airfield if the pilot determines there is an inflight emergency that would make continued flight unsafe. However, we also understand there are published criteria for ETOPS airfields and our policy concerning emergency use is not agreement or certification that Air Force airfields meet those criteria.

Ascension Island is a remote location with resources (accommodations, medical, hangars, crash/fire/rescue, etc) limited to levels essential for support of assigned personnel and the military mission. The airfield is available “as is” for emergency use only as indicated above. Whilst FHAW may be declared as an alternate for ETOPS flight planning purposes, it cannot be used as a weather alternate, except for flights departing from or destined for St Helena.”

However! After FSB enquired with local authorities, we received the following response:

“As this is a USAF military only field, it is not allowable to nominate as an ETOPS alternate. There are no lodging facilities here on the island, and there is only very limited medical capability.

We will always accept an emergency divert and have done so in the recent past. Nomination as an alternate drives a set of requirements that we do not meet – hotel, medical, 24 hour operations, etc. Since we cannot meet those requirements, nomination is not allowed. If an aircraft were to experience and emergency and need to land, we would make do with what we have.”

As we have reported in the past, it can be costly to nominate enroute alternates sometimes.

Famously, a Delta 777 diverted to Ascension back in 2013 after experiencing engine troubles.

Either way- it’s another ‘interesting’ approach.



FHSH/St Helena

This is a new airport.

It’s windy! It is subject to “severe” windshear and the runway is on top of a mountain and it’s short! There is only limited flights to/from Namibia with an E190 and a monthly flight connects onwards to RAF Ascension.

Even the first commercial flight there need to ‘go-around’ due to the wind.

It was closed shortly after it opened due to these safety concerns, but it’s back up and running now.



SBFN/Fernando De Noronha

Small island airport. Very scenic on approach and great beaches! Limited ground handling and parking options. Close to the ITCZ – susceptible to unstable weather at times. Regular commercial flights from the island and popular tourist destination with appropriate passenger facilities. Fire fighting only CAT 5. PPR – expect to pay for parking by the hour. Not an airport of entry and no fuel available to non-Brazilian military aircraft. Handling all done by island island administration and special permit landing permit required. Also important to note that the runway will be closed for maintenance between 2001 and 1131 UTC, between May 24th until Dec 31st, 2018 and that all runway lights are unavailable also.

Extra Reading:

EU SAFA ramp checks NOT on the rise – but are you ready for one?

In Short: SAFA ramp checks are continuing at the normal pace. Avoid the common mistakes of Fuel/Calc and Flight Routing (with SID/STAR), PRNAV/RNAV-1, incorrect flight plans and TCAS 7.1. If you do get a finding, expect to get a follow up ramp check the next few times you visit, to ensure compliance.

There have been more reports in Airport Spy recently which suggest there may be an increase in SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) ramp checks in Europe. So we reached out to a dozen SAFA offices around Europe to check if it was true.

Here’s what they told us:

  1. No, they’re not conducting significantly more ramp checks at the moment.
  2. No, they’re not looking more closely at certain items.
  3. Rather, the items checked during the SAFA/SACA inspections are based on a risk based approach and can differ from operator to operator (for example depending on findings raised during previous inspections). Meaning that operators who get ramp checked with findings will most likely get ramp checked again, to see if they’ve sorted out the problems!

Common Findings

But what are some common findings and the things to make sure you are doing right so you don’t get caught out?

  1. Fuel Calculation and Flight Routing: Alternates must be planned with a SID/STAR routing.

In many parts of the world it is common to plan DCT but not in many European countries. Non-compliance during a ramp inspection could lead to either a Cat 2 finding when sufficient fuel was taken into account such that the required fuel is above the minimum, or a Cat 3 finding when this was not the case.

  1. PRNAV/RNAV-1 capability.

Non-compliance constitutes a Cat 3 finding when landing at airports (such as EHAM/Amsterdam) that require it. The finding will also be reported to the aeronautical oversight department who can give fines for such violations.

  1. Filing incorrect flight plans – specifically saying you are 8.33 MHz equipped and PRNAV/RNAV-1 capable.

Again, this could lead to findings and fines beyond the SAFA programme. An easy one to miss.

  1. TCAS 7.1

The TCAS 7.1 requirement became mandatory in EU Airspace from 1st of December 2015 and became a worldwide standard under ICAO from 1st of January 2017.  One to also watch out for if operating to EU overseas territories in the Caribbean where this requirement has also been implemented and during ramp inspections is enforced the same way.

How to prepare for one?

We wrote a 2017 article all about how to make a ramp check painless.

We have also updated the FSB SAFA Ramp Checklist. Download it here.

Keep a copy with you and run through it before you head towards the EU.

Back in 2016, EASA published new guidelines for inspectors to assess which aircraft should be prioritised for SAFA ramp checks in Europe and SAFA compliant states. For an overview of those guidelines, check out our article.

Have you been ramp checked recently? Let us know, by joining OpsFox! This is a community system, where every Pilot, Air Traffic Controller, Dispatcher, Handler, and CAA can add categorized reports, based on what they see and know at their home base or visited airport. Opsfox blurs the white noise and keeps only the relevant and current information at your fingertips, before you fly.

Extra Reading:

Ongoing Bali volcanic threat – update

Update June 29, 2018:

Following the volcanic eruption on Jun 28 at Bali’s Mount Agung, the airport has been closed all morning today, Jun 29, and only just reopened at 1430 local time (0630z). Over 500 flights have already been cancelled as a result. Big delays expected all day and into the weekend. Further closures due to volcanic ash are still possible.

Per latest report from Darwin VAAC, there is a volcanic ash cloud observed up to FL160 in the area, but they predict winds will carry the ash southwest toward Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island.



In Short: Continued vigilance required for operations to Bali; The alert level for Mt Agung eruption remains at 3 (on a scale of 1-4). Last ash plume on 26 March rose to at least an altitude of 11,650 ft.

When Mount Agung erupted in November 2017, airlines faced travel chaos as flights were cancelled due to the lingering ash cloud. Since then, visitor arrivals have dropped by more than 70 percent. Facing $1bn in lost tourist revenue, the Indonesian government is trying to lure tourists back to the holiday island.

The 3,000metre high volcano sits roughly 70 kilometres away from the tropical paradise’s main airport and popular tourist areas.

In a Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA), Volcanological Survey of Indonesia (PVMBG) reported that at 1009 on 26 March an event at Agung generated an ash plume that rose at least to an altitude of 3.6 km (11,650 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW. The Alert Level remained at 3 (on a scale of 1-4) and the exclusion zone continued at a 4-km radius.

Best up-to-date information:

The current one to watch:

Mount Sinabung – located in Medan, Indonesia is also very active at the moment (last spewing ash on Friday April 6) and may disrupt air operations to Malaysia and Singapore.

Current Aviation Color Code: RED, Eruption with volcanic ash cloud at 09:07 UTC (16:07 local). Eruption and ash emission is continuing. Ash-cloud moving to west – south. Best estimate of ash-cloud top is around 23872 FT (7460 M) above sea level, may be higher than what can be observed clearly. Source of height data: ground observer.”

We will keep an eye on this one.

Mount Sinabung roared back to life in 2010 for the first time in 400 years. After another period of inactivity it erupted once more in 2013, and has remained highly active since.

If you have travelled through the region lately and can provide members with more of an update, please get in touch. 

LFMM/Marseille weekend ATC strike June 30 to July 2 – CANCELLED

Another French ATC strike has been announced for the LFMM/Marseille ACC, spanning the entire weekend June 30 – July 2. The strike will run from 0430z on Saturday 30th June to 0430z on Monday 2nd July.

Key points:

– It’s just the the controllers of the LFMM/Marseille ACC en-route airspace above FL145 who are on strike. Big delays expected for any flights trying to overfly the sector during the strike.

– Just like the previous LFMM/Marseille ACC strikes, they expect a lot of controllers will join this one. We fully expect the warning will be the same as before: “minimum service expected for the whole period” – that means that as little as 50% of FPL’s will get accepted.

– Eurocontrol are currently busy writing their Mitigation Plan, which will include recommended routes for flights to airports within the LFMM/Marseille sector during the strike, but it will be based on the info found here:

– Algeria and Tunisia are both expected to open-up their airspace for re-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!

Is Athens busy, or does it just hate Business Aviation now?

Summer parking restrictions at Greek airports are now in full swing. In previous years, it was mainly just the island airports that suffered, and airports on the mainland were used to reposition aircraft for longer stays. This year however, parking at LGAV/Athens is becoming a nightmare too.

We’ve had several reports from Opsgroup members of requests for longer stays at Athens being denied, and also previously approved requests being revoked. If you are headed to Greece, don’t count on using Athens for anything for other than a quick tech stop.

Airport authorities at Athens have now issued a Notam for the whole summer season advising that all GA/BA flights require PPR for stays of longer than two hours:

14 JUN 18:00 2018 UNTIL 20 AUG 06:00.

Local handlers have confirmed that PPR for tech stops of less than two hours almost always get granted. But for parking requests of more than two hours, prepare to be disappointed. In addition, until the end of the summer the airport will no longer accept any positioning flights without pax on board, regardless of how long you’re staying.

For operators wanting to do drop-and-go’s at Athens, always ask your agent which airports they recommend repositioning to for parking, but some options worth checking (as they do not currently have any restrictions in place for maximum parking length) are: LGKO/Kos, LGSM/Samos, LGIO/Ioannina, LGKV/Kavala, LGRX/Araxos.

Further reading:

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