International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: News Item (page 1 of 14)

Saudi – Yemen Airspace Update

In Short: Avoid Yemen & Southern Saudi airspace. The armed conflict continues with multiple ballistic missiles still going backwards and forwards.

The conflict between Yemen and Saudi Arabia continues to escalate. Missile launches and counter-attacks by both parties now seems to be almost a daily occurrence.

In the latest of these attacks, on Apr 26, local media reported that Yemeni forces fired a domestically-manufactured missile at a military base in Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Najran, in retaliation for the Saudi-led military strikes against their country. In another notable attack which happened on Apr 11, Saudi forces claim their air defense systems intercepted a missile that had been fired towards Riyadh. Saudi state-run TV channel al-Ekhbariya carried the official statement as residents of the capital posted on social media their accounts of hearing a loud explosion and seeing smoke in the sky.

So far the only missile attack known to have resulted in any casualties was on Mar 25, when seven ballistic missiles were fired toward Saudi Arabia from within Yemen. Yemeni forces said they were targeting OERK/Riyadh Airport and other sites in the capital. The Saudi government said that all seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed, although one person died and two more were injured by falling fragments of one missile over a residential neighbourhood in Riyadh.

Much of the information comes from state media and cannot always be independently verified. As the propaganda campaign continues, a New York Times investigation suggested that at least one of the most high-profile attacks from 2017 may not have been “shot-down” or intercepted by Saudi defense systems at all.

 

The conflict and insurgency on the ground remains complex and volatile. Safeairspace continues to provide up-to-date information for both Saudi and Yemen airspace.

Yemen is still at FSB Risk Level: One – DO NOT FLY – We strongly recommend avoiding this airspace entirely. The FAA and several other agencies have amended their advice and the current airspace advice map looks like this at present:

SCATANA rules are active in the southern part of Saudi Arabia, due to the current Saudi-led Intervention in Yemen.

This NOTAM, published by authorities in Yemen for the OYSC/Sanaa FIR, can definitely be taken with a grain of salt:

A0026/17 – ALL YEMEN AIRPORTS EXCEPTS TAIZ HODEIDAH AND MUKALLA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS ARE AVAILABLE AND READY TO HANDLE ALL FLIGHTS INTENDING TO FLY TO OR FROM YEMENI AIRPORTS ALSO SANAA ACC IS COMPLETELY READY TO PROVIDE ATC SERVICES TO ALL FLIGHTS OVER FLY SANAA FIR AND BASED ON THE DECLARATION OF DECISIVE STORM TERMINATION WE CONFIRM THAT SANAA FIR AND YEMENI AIRPORTS ARE SAFE EXCEPT THOSE MENTIONED ABOVE. 03 APR 18:00 2017 UNTIL PERM. CREATED: 01 JUL 15:24 2017

Extra Reading:

Last minute ATC grab in Congress

GA advocates mobilized quickly this week to fight-off a last-minute attempt to privatize US ATC.

On Tuesday Apr 24, Republican Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a “managers amendment” to the proposed five-year FAA funding bill.

His amendment called for two things:
1. Remove the US ATC system from the FAA and instead make it part of the Transportation Department.
2. Allow it to be run by a 13-member advisory board made up mainly by airlines.

“Both of these provisions were drafted in the dark of night, without any opportunity for public debate,” said NBAA.

After last minute lobbying by GA advocates, the two contentious items in the bill were removed.

While Shuster agreed to remove the measures, he reiterated that he “strongly believe[s] Congress must pass real air traffic control reform” and that he sees that happening “somewhere down the line.”

The revised language is included in a larger “manager’s amendment” that will be offered to H.R.4, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The House Rules Committee yesterday finalized the parameters for a vote on the bill on the House floor, allowing more than 100 proposed amendments to be offered for consideration. These include an amendment that essentially would establish a mandatory Age 70 retirement for NetJets pilots.

The FAA reauthorization bill is anticipated to reach the floor shortly, and a vote could happen as early as Apr 25.

Japan scrambles record number of jets as tensions rise with China

In Short: Japan scrambled a record number of fighter jets in the past year. The number rose to an all-time high of 1,168 in the year to March 2017, easily beating the previous record of 944 set at the height of the cold war in 1984. Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace prompted 851 of the incidents, an increase of 280 over the previous year.

According to official figures released on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self Defense Force is scrambling fighter jets in record numbers as Chinese military activity escalates. Interceptions of Chinese planes rose by half in the year to March 31, in response to increases in the communist country’s activity in and around the East China Sea.

Japan worries that China is probing its air defences as part of a push to extend its military influence in the East China Sea and western Pacific, where Japan controls an island chain stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) south towards Taiwan. The figures highlight China’s growing assertion of military power in East Asia as it expands and modernises its armed forces in line with rapid economic growth.

For the first time, Chinese jets recently began flying through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan, and through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean.

But it’s not only China that Japan is worried about. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned North Korea may be capable of firing a missile loaded with sarin nerve gas towards Japan. “There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to deliver missiles with sarin as warheads,” he told a parliamentary national security committee.

And then there’s Russia. Scrambles by Japanese aircraft were high throughout the 1980s in response to flights by Soviet aircraft during the cold war. They fell back to 100-200 incidents a year during the 1990s and 2000s, but began to pick up again a decade ago as both China and Russia grew more assertive.

Mr Abe has been trying to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the future of four disputed islands in the Kuril chain to Japan’s north, but has made limited progress, with the jet scrambles showing Moscow’s determination to make its presence felt on its eastern border. There were 301 scrambles to intercept Russian aircraft during the year, 13 more than the previous year, including incidents where Russian jets circumnavigated the Japanese Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands to the south.

Extra Reading:

Hong Kong near-misses on the rise

According to recent figures released by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of Hong Kong, 2017 saw an increase in ‘loss of separation’ incidents within it’s airspace.

Twelve times, two aircraft came within 1000 feet and less than 5 nautical miles of each other last year. This is the highest in six years.

Local law makers are now calling for a new ATC system to be implemented. A local pilot operating regularly through VHHH/Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) commented to FSB recently that the Air Traffic Services have been in “constant decline” over the past seven to ten years.

CAD insisted that alerts were issued “in a timely manner as per system design”. It said “losses of separation” were due to a number of factors such as adverse weather, operating procedures and human factors and they did occasionally occur due to the old air traffic system and other systems around the world. “CAD would investigate every individual incident according to established procedures and make necessary improvement,” the department added.

Hong Kong airspace is congested at the best of times. With four major airports within 150 kilometres and many overflights to and from mainland China, the 2016 introduction of a new Air Traffic System known as “Autotrac3” was set to assist in solving some of the complexity whilst increasing safety. The transition to the new system was challenging with various system issues.

The TMA is also complicated by significant terrain and regular adverse weather. Recent statistics show that air traffic is up over 3.5% already in 2018 with 36,000 movements occurring monthly (6.4 million passengers).

The continued massive year-on-year growth has seen the start of work to construct a third runway, expected to be operational in 2023-24 to facilitate the expected 100 million passengers using HKIA by that time.

This will no doubt just put further strain on an already complicated airspace situation.

The new third runway at HKIA- coming 2023-24.

Have you operated through the Hong Kong area lately? Can you provide an update?

Extra Reading:

US updates its Syria airspace warning

Following the US, UK and French airstrikes on Syria on April 14, the US FAA say there is now a risk posed to civil aviation within 200 nautical miles of the country due to increased military activity, GPS and comms interference, and the potential for more long range surface-to-air missiles in the area.

In the updated US FAA conflict zone Notam and Background Information for Syria, US civil aviation continues to be prohibited from operating within Syrian airspace, but has also now been instructed to “exercise caution” when operating within 200 nautical miles of Syria’s OSTT/Damascus FIR.

As they say in the Background Information doc, here’s why this updated guidance has been published:

“Heightened military activity associated with the Syrian conflict has the potential to spill over into the adjacent airspace managed by neighboring states and eastern portions of the Mediterranean Sea. Military operations may result in the risk of GPS interference, communications jamming, and errant long-range SAMs straying into adjacent airspace within 200 nautical miles of the Damascus Flight Information Region (OSTT FIR). These activities may inadvertently pose hazards to U.S. civil aviation transiting the region. This concern stems from the Syrian military response to previous airstrikes on 10 February 2018, which included Syrian forces launching long-range SAMs. Some of the Syrian SAMs flew into adjacent airspace and landed in Lebanon and Jordan, according to media reporting. GPS interference and communications jamming in the region may also occur associated with the military activity. Some U.S. air carriers have reported GPS interference in portions of the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the period following the 10 February airstrikes, and the interference may have originated from the Damascus Flight Information Region (OSTT FIR) as a defensive response.”

The US FAA haven’t provided a map to show where boundary would lie for 200 nautical miles from the border of Syrian airspace, but we think it would look something like this:

The 200 nautical mile zone would include the entire airspace of Lebanon, Jordan and Israel; half of Turkey and Iraq; and a portion of airspace over the LCCC/Nicosia FIR that covers the whole island of Cyprus!

The area may seem vast, but the possibility of further US, UK and French strikes against Syrian targets does still exist, as well as the Syrian military using surface-to-air missiles in response to any attacks.

During the airstrikes on April 14, the Syrian military reportedly used Russian-made missile systems to attempt to counter the strikes – these included missiles which have the capability to engage aircraft at altitudes well above FL900 and at ranges of around 190 miles.

While there is likely no intention to target civil aircraft, with all the missile defence activity going on in Syria and the spillover into neighbouring countries there still remains a risk of misidentification – and that’s what the 200 nautical mile warning seeks to address.

Amidst continued heavy military air presence in the region, almost all airlines are now avoiding Syrian airspace entirely. Lebanon’s Beirut based MEA has now also re-routed all of their flights to avoid Syrian Airspace (was using it post recent attacks). Only local operators Fly Damas, Charm Wing Airlines, Syrian Air and Iran’s Mahan Air continue to use the airspace.


Here’s what the Pentagon had to say about the airstrikes on April 14:

  • 105 missiles were launched in the strikes against Syria. They included 30 Tomahawk missiles fired from the USS Monterey and seven from the USS Laboon in the Red Sea. Another 23 Tomahawk missiles were launched from the USS Higgins in the North Arabian Gulf.
  • A submarine, USS John Warner, fired six Tomahawk missiles from the eastern Mediterranean and a French frigate in the same area fired another three missiles.
  • At least one US Navy warship operating in the Red Sea participated in airstrikes, as well as US B-1 bombers.
  • The air assault involved two US B-1 Lancer bombers, which fired 19 joint air to surface standoff missiles. The British flew a combination of Tornado and Typhoon jets, firing eight Storm Shadow missiles, while French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets launched nine SCALP missiles.
  • Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4’s were used in the strikes, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a “former missile base — some 15 miles west of Homs,” according to the UK Ministry of Defense.
  • Syria fired 40 surface to air missiles ‘at nothing’ after allied air strikes destroyed three Assad chemical sites.
  • The United States remains “locked and loaded” to launch further attacks.
  • United States and Allies maintain positive posture of force in the region, especially in the air.

105 missiles launched from multiple locations in the region.
Over 40 Syrian surface to air missiles fired “at nothing”.

Further Reading:

A0454/18 – INFORMATION TO AIRSPACE USERS

THE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AVIATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS IS CONTINUOUSLY MONITORING THE GEOPOLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE REGION AND WILL NOTIFY THE AVIATION COMMUNITY IF AND WHEN ANY RELEVANT AN RELIABLE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE THE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AVIATION IS TAKING ALL APPROPRIATE ACTION TO SAFEGUARD THE SAFETY OF FLIGHTS. 12 APR 15:25 2018 UNTIL 12 JUL 15:00 2018 ESTIMATED. CREATED: 12 APR 15:26 2018

If you have anything to share that we’ve missed, please tell us by email bulletin@fsbureau.org

Russia is not closing its airspace to American flights

On April 17, the Russian Ministry of Transport extended overflight approvals for US airlines through to October 28, 2018 – just hours before the old agreement on overflights was due to expire.

This should bring an end to the rumour that had been circulating all week that Russia has closed its airspace to US aircraft, and were denying overflights. There are a couple of unrelated events which caused this confusion:

1. US strikes on Syria on April 14, with rhetoric of Russia retaliation – which in the end didn’t happen.

2. Spooked about how Russia might respond directly after the strikes, American Airlines temporarily decided not to overfly Russia on some of their flights from the US to Hong Kong… but then they quickly went back to doing so again on April 15.

3. With the deadline looming for extending the agreement, Russian civil aviation officials had reportedly cancelled a meeting in Washington earlier this week to discuss renewing the agreement.

4. Some areas of the Baltic Sea are closed on April 19 for Russian missile firing, which is a routine event.

 

References – all the relevant stories are here:

 

ICAO Raises Weight Threshold for Hardened Cockpit Door Requirement

In Short: Following a three-year effort from industry groups and aircraft manufacturers, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will raise the weight threshold for requiring hardened cockpit doors for aircraft with 19 or fewer passenger seats from 45.5 metric tons (100,310 pounds) maximum certificated takeoff weight to 54.5 metric tons (120,152 pounds).

This decision will enable the full type certification and worldwide use of current and future extended-range business aircraft such as the Bombardier Global 7000 and Gulfstream G650ER.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has changed its weight rules regarding strengthened cockpit doors on business jets. Toughened doors are required for aircraft operating charter flights.

Previous rules stated that hardened doors were needed for business jets with 19 seats or fewer, with a maximum take-off weight of 100,310lbs (45.5T). The new rules increase the maximum take-off weight to 120,152lbs (54.5T).

“This change maintains the security level intended by the original hardened cockpit door requirement, but recognizes the important distinction between airline service and business aircraft operations,” said Sarah Wolf, CAM, NBAA senior manager of security and facilitation.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), in concert with the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations and aircraft manufacturers, proposed the changes to Annex 6 Part 1 – International Commercial Air Transport.

“The effort took much planning and working through the full standard-making process at ICAO and shows ICAO recognition of greater operational capabilities and industry evolution,” said IBAC Director General Kurt Edwards.

The new standard will become effective Jul 16, 2018, and applicable to member states in Nov 2018.

Ongoing Bali volcanic threat – update

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. 

Maldives – Civil Unrest Update

In short: Civil unrest has calmed and state of emergency lifted on March 22, 2018. No impact at Malé International Airport or outlying islands or resorts. #OpsNormal.

The Maldives, a country known far more as a honeymoon hotspot in the Indian Ocean than as a hub of political crisis, is back to “business as usual,” according to its president, Abdulla Yameen, following the lifting of a 45-day state of emergency on March 22.

Latest Updates:

  • After the Maldivian government declared a state of emergency in February, tourists around the world are canceling their beachfront vacations in droves. The blow to the Maldives’ tourism industry is significant, as it accounts for over 30% of the country’s gross domestic product, reaching $3.5 billion in 2017. Ratings agency Moody’s has said it will lower its 4.5% growth forecast for 2018 if tourists avoid the island nation for a prolonged period.
  • On 22 March 2018, the state of emergency in Maldives was lifted. There could still be further anti-government protests in the capital Malé and a number of other towns. Recent protests have resulted in pepper spray being used by the security forces. You should exercise caution and avoid any protests or rallies. There are no reports that outlying islands, resorts or Malé International Airport have been affected.
  • Some local airlines have suspended flights to China due to the on-going unrest and decline in tourism numbers.

Extra Reading:

Have you been through the Maldives lately and can you update opsgroup members on the latest?

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.”

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