International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: News Item (page 2 of 18)

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

Unsafe aircraft not welcome in Europe

Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have brought live an automated system which alerts air traffic controllers when unsafe aircraft enter European airspace.

How does it work?

Network Management Director at Eurocontrol Joe Sultana, explained that “We have added another parameter to our system, and this is now checking if an aircraft coming from outside of Europe is coming from a state where the regulatory environment is accepted by the European Aviation Safety Agency”.

So in short: The system will now take an automatic look at the Third Country Operator Authorisation and alert ATC if there is a flight being operated from a aircraft on the banned list.

The regulation that a plane coming from a non EU country must have a Third Country Operator Authorisation has been in place since 2014, but controllers have had no way to implement it across the 30,000 flights it receives into Europe each day, until this new component was entered into their systems.

As a reminder, Eurocontrol receives the flight plans of all aircraft entering into European air space, while the EASA holds the Third Country Operator Authorisations information which confirms that planes are from countries with recognised safe regulatory practices.

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:

No fuel at LFMN/Nice

Update July 9th: Following last week’s issues with a break in the fuel pipeline coming into the airport, local handlers are now saying there are no more issues with fuel supply and availability. However, some third-party fuel providers are warning they still cannot arrange fuel for BA/GA operators, and are advising them to tanker inbound. Do you know different? Let us know!

July 5th: Due a break in the pipeline into the airport, for most operators there is no fuel available at LFMN/Nice.

Check with your handler before operating if your uplift at Nice is essential, as many are now advising all ad-hoc operators to tanker-in.

Information is still coming in, but it appears this may affect operations for a few days. No word of other airports affected, and nothing has been published in the Notams yet.

Customs now closed overnight at KBGR/Bangor

Bad news for trans-Atlantic operators! The Customs office at KBGR/Bangor Airport will now be closing each night from 22-06 local time (02-10z).

They used to be open H24, which made Bangor a great option for trans-Atlantic operators wanting to clear U.S. Customs somewhere nice and straightforward overnight. Now with the new changes, you can still request overtime, but Customs needs 24hrs notice to arrange and will only assess on a case-by-case basis.

Now it seems that the nearest airport in the region still with Customs available H24 is KBOS/Boston International Airport, and given it’s size, it’s not the most BA/GA friendly at the best of times.

Where else to go? Here are some options:

Open 08-22 local time, 7 days a week
Available out-of-hours but minimum 2hrs notice required.

Open 08-17 weekdays only
Available out-of-hours but minimum 24hrs notice required.

Open 07-21 local time, 7 days a week
Available out-of-hours but minimum 24hrs notice required.

Know of anywhere else in the region which provides Customs H24? If we missed somewhere obvious, let us know!

HLLL Tripoli FIR 2018 Operational Changes – Libya

UPDATE Tuesday, 3 July 2018: More chaos in the Libyan FIR. Malta are reporting severe limitations in the provision of air traffic services across Libyan airspace, as the Tripoli ACC is now operating from a contingency ATC operations room. They’re changing their frequencies without publishing it by Notam, and there are coverage limitations on the alternate VHF frequencies. We recommend avoiding the airspace entirely, but if you absolutely have to overfly Libya, contact Malta ATS on email for help.

A number of countries already have blanket warnings in place against operating to Libya, and they all say pretty much the same thing: avoid the entire country – don’t overfly the Tripoli FIR, and don’t land at any Libyan airports.

Even the Libyan authorities have issued some guidance of their own, showing those areas that they believe to be active Conflict Zones – this type of notification from a ‘Conflict Zone state’ is rare.

HLLL/LIBYA A0067/18 
AREA 1: 3116N01610E 3108N01707E 3030N01700E 3042N01605E
AREA 2: 3251N02240E 3243N02246E 3239N02218E 3247N02216E.
GND - FL195, 12 MAY 09:40 2018 UNTIL 12 AUG 12:00 2018 ESTIMATED.
CREATED: 12 MAY 09:48 2018

One of these areas is around the city of Sirte, including HLGT/Sirte Airport; and the other covers the city of Derna to the east of HLLQ/Labraq Airport:

Other than those two small areas, Libya is happily advertising the country as being open for business! In their updated Notam published in May 2018, they say their airspace is “available H24 for international traffic transiting the HLLL FIR”, and they outline their mandatory routing scheme. They also claim that HLLB/Benina, HLLM/Mitiga, HLLQ/Labraq, HLMS/Misrata and HLTQ/Tobruk airports are “available H24 for international flights and diversions”.

Don’t be fooled. Libya is still a desperately unstable country. There are still regular outages in the provision of ATC services – especially at the main airports due to security or technical failure issues. The main ACC in Tripoli is also subject to severe limitations with no radar service and limited provision of CNS/ATM services in most of the HLLL FIR airspace.

The situation at the country’s main airports is no better. Both airports in Tripoli are focal points for fighting. Given their strategic value, they periodically serve as headquarters for various local militias.

HLLT/Tripoli Airport has been more or less completely closed since mid-2014, when at least 90% of the airport’s facilities were destroyed in fighting between local militias. Since then, international flights to and from Tripoli have been using HLLM/Mitiga instead. Technically, HLLT/Tripoli is now only available for VIP, emergency and ambulance flights; but in reality, it should be avoided at all costs.

HLLM/Mitiga Airport is the old military airfield, which is now being used for civilian traffic, since the closure of HLLT/Tripoli. However, the airport has been plagued by violence over the past few years, and has been forced to close on a number of occasions.

Here’s a rough timeline of notable incidents at Libya’s main airports over the past few months:

April 2018: militants fired rockets at Mitiga, causing damage to the airport building, parts of the apron tarmac, and a parked Libya Airlines A320 aircraft (see picture to the right).

April 2018:  HLMS/Misrata Airport briefly suspended operations and redirected flights to Mitiga, when an armed group entered the airport, demanding the release of two members of a local militia.

Feb 2018: another closure at Mitiga related to ongoing clashes between local militia. This time, a mortar shell fell near the airport, and the ATC tower was evacuated, forcing flights to divert to Misrata.

Jan 2018: heavy clashes across Tripoli left at least twenty people dead and forced Mitiga to close for five days, from Jan 15-20. Gunfire at the airport damaged multiple aircraft, including a few A319s and at least one A330:

Oct 2017: a Libyan Airlines A330 at Mitiga airport was hit by gunfire during an exchange of fire between local militia in the district directly south of the airport:

Given the current security concerns, it may be prudent to ignore whatever the Libyan authorities decide to publish on the HLLL FIR Notams about the country’s airspace and main international airports being “available H24”. We continue to list the entire country as “Level 1 – Avoid” at


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. 

What do you Sphinx about this new airport?

We love new airports … and we have a cool one tell you about in Giza, Egypt – known as Sphinx International Airport (SPX, HESX)!

It looks like it’s undergoing a “soft” opening of sorts. Word from handlers we have spoken to on the ground confirm it’s open for business (for the most part).

Here is the info we have so far:

  • ICAO code: HESX
  • IATA code: SPX
  • PCN: 87
  • Runway dimensions: 3650M x 60M
  • The airport is open from Sunrise to Sunset. No night lighting installed as yet.
  • There is no CIQ yet. But it’s coming soon – so it’s not an airport of entry presently.
  • Airport features a general and business aviation terminal, with its own dedicated CIQ unit. The VIP terminal and Royal Lounge are open. A complete fleet of GSE is in place.
  • Jet A1 Fuel is available via Misr Petroleum Company tankers. No Hydrant System yet.
  • Airport features 8 parking stands currently.
  • Most likely the airport will be slot coordinated preserving control on capacity until the new terminals launch.
  • Night stop parking is accepted with a requirement to re-position aircraft to parking bays after passengers disembark.

Some extra info from the local agent:

“The airport has already launched, but not in it’s full capacity as the contracted constructor is still finishing up the exteriors. In addition the check-in software has not been installed, meaning commercial schedule flights haven’t started yet. However the airport is accepting business and general aviation flights during opening hours and with pre-notification of 48 hours.”

Parking spots are well equipped and overnight parking is possible. The airport is only seeing a handful of movements at present and is not busy.

The airport is best suited for those wishing to visit Cairo West or Giza City with the expected launch of commercial flights on 30 June.

Have you landed there yet? Let us know if you have any updates.

p.s. Fun fact- The Great Sphinx of Giza when translated from Arabic to English means: The Terrifying One; literally: Father of Dread. So……Safe landings 😉

Extra Reading:

  • AD 2.HESX-v2 – AIP Information on HESX – Sphinx International Airport.

Frustration with new Curacao FIR billing system

We have previously reported on TNCF/Curacao FIR denying airspace entry if you haven’t prepaid your navigation fees.

Since then, more of our members have reported that the Dutch Caribbean – Air Navigation Service Provider (DC-ANSP) have been charging navigation fees for flights filed but not operated. If there was a mistake on the flightplan or a new one needed to be filed the DC-ANSP has charged the fees for both and refused to issue refunds. To make matters worse, it’s been reported that they are charging $50 to review the matter! Poor form!

From 1 Jan 2018, DC-ANSP switched billing systems – from direct payment to IATA to a new online system provided for by IDS. It’s pretty high tech and fancy. Maybe too fancy if they are charging for flights that didn’t happen….

High tech new billing system!

DC-ANSP’s motto is “We guide you home safely!” – maybe they should add …. “but only when you prepay.

Have you had a similar experience? Let us know!

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