International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Safe Airspace

New Unsafe Airspace Summary and Map

March 20, 2018: One of our biggest missions in OPSGROUP is to share risk information and keep operators aware of the current threat picture. The latest Unsafe Airspace Summary is now published, and available to members here as a PDF download (Unsafe Airspace Summary 20MAR2018, edition LIMA).

The main changes since the last summary are below. For a current risk map, refer to the Airspace Risk map in your member Dashboard.

The situation in Afghanistan remains similar. On March 13, Germany added wording to maintain FL330 or higher,  still recommending against landings at Afghan airports.

Germany also issued updated NOTAMs for Mali, Iraq, and South Sudan. All warnings remain as previous, unchanged from the prior NOTAMs.

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.

Tel Aviv Airport closes as a precaution against attack

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

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

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

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

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

Bangladesh is now one big ADIZ

Bangladesh has decided to establish an ADIZ over the entire country, including a massive chunk of airspace off their south coastline that actually extends over much of the adjoining Indian VECF/Kolkata FIR.

Aircraft intending to fly into, through, or within this new Bangladesh ADIZ must now obtain an ADC (Air Defence Clearance) number beforehand. Just file your flight plan, and they will send this to you by AFTN. Make sure you write it down – as they will ask you for it on HF before you enter their airspace.

If you don’t have AFTN access, you can get the number by calling +880-2890-1081 or emailing

The authorities in Bangladesh have released a scary sounding AIC on all this, which you can read in full here. What they fail to mention there, but have published by Notam, is that there are actually a bunch of airways over the ocean (P646, N895, M770, L524 and W112) where you won’t have to get this ADC number, unless you deviate towards the landmass of Bangladesh.

As the Notam clarifies:

A0032/18 NOTAMN Q) VGFR/QXXXX/IV/BO/AE/000/999/ 
TELEPHE: +880 2 8901081 
FAX : +880 2 8901081 

So you won’t need an ADC number on those airways, but for everywhere else in that big red ice-pick-shaped chunk of airspace, you’ll need to get authorisation. As the Bangladesh AIS office politely warn in their AIC: “Aircraft flying without a valid ADC number or failing to comply with any restriction or deviating from flight plan will be liable to interception by Bangladesh Air Force Interceptor aircraft according to ICAO Standard Interception Procedure.”

Dangerous airspace in the Incheon FIR

There’s a bit of airspace 100nm off the coast from ZSPD/Shanghai, known as the ‘AKARA Corridor’, where the different ACC’s (Shanghai, Incheon, and Fukuoka) are responsible for the control of aircraft at various different crossing points. This means that some crossing traffic is not on the same ATC frequency, nor controlled from the same area control centre. The ACC’s don’t talk to each other to coordinate flights through this bit of airspace, and this poses a big safety risk, especially in the case of emergency descents.

In 1983, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between China, Japan, Republic of Korea and ICAO for the management of air traffic in the southern part of the current Incheon FIR – this bit of airspace became known as the AKARA Corridor.

This area is unusual in that more than one Area Control Center (ACC) is responsible for controlling aircraft at different waypoints.

IATA have published an Operational Notice about this. Download that by clicking here, or read on for a slightly condensed version…

“Instead of responsibility for the control of ALL aircraft operating at the crossing point of air routes A593 and B576/Y722 (waypoint NIRAT) and Y711 (waypoint PONIK) being vested in a single air traffic control unit, it is vested under both the Incheon ACC and the Fukuoka ACC.

Aircraft operating East/West on A593 are controlled by Fukuoka ACC (crossing Y711 at position PONIK and B576/Y722 at position NIRAT). Aircraft operating North/South on B576 and Y711 are under the control of Incheon ACC.

Therefore, crossing traffic is not on the same ATC frequency, nor controlled from the same area control center.

Following the implementation of RVSM in the INCHEON FIR in 2005, the allocation of flight levels on B576/Y711 was increased from 6 to 8 flight levels. Coincident with implementation of RVSM in China, levels available on A593 were also increased to include Flight Levels 300 and 310, while FL410 was replaced by FL400.

It is understood that annually there are approximately 169000 movements on B576/Y711 and Y722, and 122,000 movements on A593; a dramatic increase over the insignificant traffic numbers of the mid-1980’s when the MOU was signed.

Given the above, a very significant concern for operators is an unexpected contingency situation necessitating an emergency descent. ICAO provisions require that ATC will issue immediate traffic information and/or instructions to safeguard aircraft concerned. This is not possible when a controller does not have radio contact with, or control over, all of the aircraft operating in the affected airspace underneath. Obviously, this would not be an issue if the control of all the traffic at the crossing points of A593 with B576/Y722 and Y711 was vested in a single air traffic control unit, as is normally the case.

The published outcomes of the Twenty-Second Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Regional Airspace Safety Monitoring Advisory Group (RASMAG/22, 10-13 July 2017, Bangkok) contained the following observations:

The safety assessment of the AKARA Corridor in the southern portion of the Incheon Flight Information Region (FIR) noted that due to the high opposite direction passing traffic frequency, only one vertical deviation per annum of more than 0.125 minutes (approximately 7.5 seconds) would breach the Corridor Target Level of Safety (TLS), highlighting the extreme sensitivity of the airspace to any Large Height Deviation (LHD) event. Moreover, operational factors which may contribute to deviations were noted as including the:

a)  operation of several Area Control Centers (ACCs) in the same portion of airspace on different frequencies, which is non-compliant with Annex 11;

b)  possible presence of non-Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) aircraft;

c)  possibility of turbulence (reported regularly southwest and south of Japan), either not allowing adequate height-keeping, or necessitating a descent or climb;

d)  lack of any emergency descent procedures;

e)  possibility of non- or under-reporting (in some cases due to lack of awareness of all traffic due to the Flight Level Allocation Scheme (FLAS));

f)  lack of a voice communication link between Shanghai and Incheon ACCs (including Air Traffic Service (ATS) Inter-facility Datalink Communication – AIDC); and

g)  inconsistent use of Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure (SLOP).

Based on the above, The Fifth Meeting of the Asia Pacific Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group (APANPIRG) Air Traffic Management Sub-Group (ATM/SG/5, Bangkok, 31 July-04 August 2017) noted that China, ROK, Japan and ICAO should endeavor to normalize ICAO standard compliance within the AKARA Corridor.

ATM/SG/5 urged that until the AKARA Corridor arrangements were such that the safety risks were acceptable and compliant with ICAO standards the relevant States should consider short-term measures.”

China-Taiwan airway dispute turns nasty

Taiwan is demanding an immediate end to China’s M503 airway over the Taiwan Strait.

China first started using this airway back in March 2015, but only for north-to-south traffic. Most airlines used this route to get to Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia.

Taiwan didn’t like it – they complained that the airway was too close to the FIR boundary between the two countries (it sits around 8km inside China’s ZSHZ/Shanghei FIR), and they claimed it interfered with services between Taiwan’s main island and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu close to the coast of China’s province of Fujian.

Now China have opened up the airway to south-to-north traffic too. Figures from 2017 showed that flights from Hong Kong to Shanghai were getting delayed at an average of over 100 minutes, so China have decided to start using this airway for northbound traffic to ease congestion a bit.

In response, Taiwan have said that China’s action undermines cross-strait relations and stability in the region – which follows weeks of reports about Chinese military jets and navy ships approaching Taiwanese territory.

China don’t seem too concerned though. The government official from their ‘Taiwan Affairs Office’ had this to say on the matter:

“The mainland started south to north operation of the M503 flight route from Jan 4 this year, which involves no Taiwan flight route or destination and will not affect Taiwan flight safety… The M503 flight route is located close to the mainland in the Taiwan Strait and in the Shanghai Flight Information Region. The establishment and operation of the M503 route is routine work for the mainland’s civil aviation authorities.”

So for now, if you’re flying from the VHHK/Hong Kong FIR in the south to any number of airports in northern China, the Chinese authorities are quite happy for you to route via M503. Taiwan won’t like it, but it seems there’s very little they can do about it.

More information:

  • For flights to or from Taiwan: you’ll have to completely avoid overflying or landing in China. Full details here.
  • For flights to China: make sure you know about the hidden costs of operating there here.
  • If you want to know exactly how to get your landing or overflight permits, check out our Permit Book – this tells you how to get a permit for each and every country in the world!

A319, A330 hit by gunfire at Tripoli

Heavy clashes broke out in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Jan 15, leaving at least twenty people dead and forcing HLLM/Mitiga airport to close for five days, re-opening again on Jan 20.

Gunfire at the airport damaged multiple aircraft, including a few A319s and at least one A330.

Here are some photos of some of the damage:


Both airports in Tripoli are focal points for fighting. Given their strategic value, they periodically serve as headquarters for various local militias.

HLLT/Tripoli 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 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 a number of times.

Back in July 2017, we reported on the intense fighting that took place at Mitiga airport where 5 people were killed and 32 injured, and then on 19 Oct 2017, a Libyan Airlines A330 at the airport was hit by gunfire during an exchange of fire between local militia in the district directly south of the airport.

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 land at any airport, don’t even overfly.

So we suggest you ignore whatever gets pumped out on the HLLL FIR Notams about airports being “AVAILABLE H24 FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AND EN-ROUTE DIVERSIONS”. (You can read that nonsense in full by clicking here.)

Libya remains categorised as a Level One country (Do Not Fly) at


Cathay crew witness missile re-entry from North Korea

Crew onboard a Cathay Pacific flight witnessed the re-entry of North Korea’s latest missile near their position late last week. The CX893 service from San Francisco to Hong Kong on Nov 29 was over Japan at the time when North Korea launched its missile.

The crew reported: “Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location.”

Here’s Cathay Pacific’s full statement:

“On 29 November, the flight crew of CX893 reported a sighting of what is suspected to be the re-entry of the recent DPRK test missile. Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC according to procedures. Operation remained normal and was not affected. We have been in contact with relevant authorities and industry bodies as well as with other carriers. At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters. We remain alert and review the situation as it evolves."

North Korea’s missiles are larger, and can fly further, than the other missiles we’ve previously seen. Over the past year, most of these missiles land in the Sea of Japan, well inside the Fukuoka Flight Information Region (Japanese airspace). But as we see with this latest test, there is clearly a danger of some of these missiles not re-entering the atmosphere intact – meaning that a debris field of missile fragments passes through the airspace, not just one complete missile. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you read this: our article on why North Korean missiles are now a real threat to Civil Aviation.

This latest test is also significant because of its unprecedented altitude – 4500km (2800 miles). Experts seem to agree that if it had been fired on a standard trajectory, the missile would have been capable of traveling around 13000km (8100 miles), meaning it could have struck anywhere in the mainland US.

If you’re operating in the region, we recommend avoiding the ZKKP/Pyongyang FIR entirely and avoiding the affected areas over the Sea of Japan. For more info, check out Safeairspace.

Bali – Airport Status

Volcanic eruptions from Bali’s Mount Agung earlier last week forced the closure of WADD/Denpasar and WADL/Lombok airports, as volcanic ash spread across both islands.

Here’s the current situation at the airports on Dec 4:

  • WADD/Bali: Re-opened on Nov 29. (Although the airport will be closed for runway repair from 18-23z daily [except Saturdays] until Dec 31).
  • WADL/Lombok: Re-opened on Nov 30. 
  • WARR/Juanda: Open and operating. So far has not been affected at all by the volcanic ash. (Although the airport will be closed for runway repair from 16-22z daily until Jan 06).

Although Mount Agung has now stopped emitting ash, another large eruption is still likely. The local monitoring agency are registering powerful and continuous tremors, and authorities have ordered locals and journalists within 10km of the volcano to evacuate. Further intermittent airport closures are possible, depending on wind direction.

We will keep this page updated with the latest news as we get it.

Think twice before entering this airspace. Overflight Risk areas in August 2017.

One of our primary missions at FSB is to monitor the world’s airspace and report on new risks to civil aviation. When enough changes occur, we update our “Unsafe Airspace Summary“.

Today, we published a new summary effective 16AUG2017 – version “INDIA”.

First up, the map as things stand:

Red is Level 1 – Avoid this Airspace
Orange is Level 2 – Assessed Risk
Yellow is Level 3 – Caution.

A live version of this map is always updated at


What’s changed since the last summary?

  • Somalia is downgraded to Level 2, so there are now five Level 1 – Avoid countries: Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea.
  • Saudi Arabia is upgraded to Level 2, due to assessed risk in the southwestern portion of the FIR (Yemen border area)
  • French Guyana no longer a threat as strikes and airspace closures have ended
  • Addition of JapanVenezuela and South Korea at Level 3 – Caution advised

If you have ops to any of these countries, make sure to have a read of the risk information. A full library is at


Download the latest summary


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