International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Special Report (page 1 of 10)

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.

OpsGroup – the power of the group

The power of the group

In the last 30 years, there has been a massive change in how the world works: thank you, internet. We are witnessing a shift from the power of a central source – like government, and large corporations – to the power of the individual. Each of us is now connected to the entirety of human knowledge through a small, handheld device, and can connect with others to effect powerful and positive change.

OPSGROUP is founded on this premise.  International Flight Operations is an inherently tricky area, full of gotcha’s and unforeseen changes for even the most diligent airline or aircraft operator. One operator versus a myriad of often unreadable government-sourced regulations and information – Notams, AIC’s, FAR’s – is a battle with guaranteed casualties.

But by connecting with other people, just like you, with the same problems and challenges, you can solve and share solutions.

When we started this group last year, we had a small handful of pilots, dispatchers, and managers that figured coming together in this way was a winner. As of November 2017, we’re now heading for 4,000 OPSGROUP members, with a great variety in operations roles: Airline and Corporate pilots, Military operators, Federal agencies, Flight Dispatchers and Schedulers, ATC, and Civil Aviation Authorities – all working together.

It’s still early days, and we have a way to go. But with some basic core principles – plain language (we call a spade a spade), operator and passenger safety ahead of lawyer-speak, cooperation instead of competition  – and a huge appetite for development, there is much to gain.

So what’s good in the group? Read on …

1. Information

First on the plate for almost every operator is staying current. Rules and regulations are changing with increased voracity. Did I miss something? Yep, almost definitely. Each week we produce the International Operations Bulletin. We try to cover all the big changes in the last 7 days. If we miss something, we’ve found that someone in the group is pretty quick to tell us, and it appears in the next one.

 

 

2. Fun (including Goats)

We promise to keep it entertaining“. Without your attention, we’ve got nothing. Not only that, but we get as bored as you do with the standard aviation legal-language speak that permeates even the most important documents. Which is why sometimes we’ll run a Goat Show. Sometimes it’s just great to be “unprofessional“.

3. Members

Like we said, approaching 4,000. All working together with the same goal: making International Flight Operations better. Click on the links to read what they say.

Airlines like United, Fedex, and Etihad
Small Part 91 Flight Departments like CAT3, Fayair, Pula
Big 135 Charter Operators like Jet Aviation, TAG and Netjets
Companies like Visa, IBM, and AT&T
Manufacturers like Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed
International Pilots like Matt Harty, Bill Stephenson, and Timothy Whalen
Organisations like IFALPA, the NBAA, and CAA Singapore

 

4. Airspace Risk

MH17 was a tragedy that must not be repeated. A small handful of operators were privy to information on the risk, and the Notam writers of Ukraine that were aware of previous shoot-downs released the information in a language almost designed to confuse. Through our safeairspace.net project, we can now share risk information within OPSGROUP and make sure that every single member has access to a current picture of airspace risk.

 

5. Airport Spy

One of our group members came to us with a great idea last year – why don’t we share our knowledge of operations at airports around the world. So we made a TripAdvisor style section in the member Dashboard, and allowed members to add their own reports on Airports, ATC, and Handlers. We now have 3000 or so reports.

 

6. Member Dashboard

We don’t need to explain this one too much. Everything the group has, in one place.

 

7. Slack

Slack is cool. It’s a chat app, but it’s more than that. Internally, we don’t use email anymore, we use slack. There are different channels like #crewroom, #todays-ops, #usefuldocs, and #questions. When there are special events, like #FranceATCStrike or #NewYorkSnow we open a special group for that. About 1200 members use this regularly, and it’s the perfect way to connect with other crews, ATC, or the Feds.

 

8. George

George is a bot. He’ll fetch information for you on airports, get weather, the NAT Tracks, and a few other things. We’re working on making him a little smarter.

 

9. Ask Us Anything

Getting an answer to your question is what keeps us awake at night. There’s not much we can’t help with, but usually someone else in the group beats us to it. If not though, the FSB International Desk team will research that ops question that is threatening to make your life hell.

 

10. The future

The best part of OPSGROUP is that we’re really just getting started. The future of the group is unwritten, but placing the planning power in your hands as an operator rather than 3rd parties, and having the security of knowing that the group has your back, is a great way to start. There is much to build and develop, and we’d love you to be involved!

 

11. Joining

You can choose an Individual, Team, or Flight Department membership. All the information on that is on the OpsGroup website. We limit joining windows to certain months of the year, so that we can be all hands on deck with building new things for the group once membership is closed. If we’re not accepting new members at the moment, you can waitlist for the next opening.

 

Further

 

Making a Ramp Check painless (with checklist)

Hello, we’re from the government and we’re here to help“.

The SAFA Program (Safety Assessment  of Foreign Aircraft) is not exclusive to the EU. Your aircraft can be inspected under the program in 47 different countries.

Here are the key points:

  • Ramp checks are possible in every country in the world – but follow a more regulated and common structure in SAFA Countries – totalling 47 – see the map and list below.
  • There is a standard checklist that is used by Inspectors in all SAFA countries, which you should be familiar with – see further down.
  • Three categories of findings have been defined. A “Category 1” finding is called a minor finding; “Category 2” is a significant finding and “Category 3” a major finding. The terms “minor”, “significant” and “major” relate to the level of influence on safety.
  • If there is a “corrective actions before flight authorised” finding – then the inspector is concerned and a repair must be made before the aircraft is released to fly.
SAFA

Unless your aircraft looks like this, you have little to worry about.

Here’s how a ramp check normally goes down:

  • The flight selected will either be your last of 6 legs for the day, or after a gruelling 12 hour jetlag-inducer, or at 3am when you were thinking about a quick nap during the turnaround. This much is guaranteed.
  • As you pull on to the stand, you will notice more yellow vests than normal hanging around.
  • Two of these will be your friendly ramp inspection team (to be fair, they almost always are)
  • A short time later, those yellow vests will be in the cockpit, and the first request will be for a look at your license, medical, aircraft documents (like Insurance, Airworthiness), and flight paperwork. Make sure you’ve done your fuel checks and there are a few marks on the flight plan.
  • If you get a good cop, bad cop scenario, one will disappear down the back (this will be the nice guy) and check the cabin, while the first will stay and ask you tough questions about the TCAS system.
  • Some time later, you’ll get a list of findings. The average check is probably about 30 minutes.
  • You can be guaranteed they will always have at least one finding – which will probably be obscure.
  • Sign off the checklist, and you’re on your way.

 

Some interesting points:

  • The Inspectors can ask you for manuals, documents, or guidance – but they are not supposed to test your knowledge of procedures, regulations, or technical matters. This doesn’t always happen in practice – so if you get a tough question – just say “I don’t know” – and let them note it if they want to. This isn’t a classroom test.
  • This guidance is given to Inspectors: Delaying an operator for a non-safety related issue is not only frustrating to the operator, it also could result in unwanted human factor issues with possible negative effects on the flight preparation. They can (should) only delay your flight for a safety related issue.
  • Some recent favourites: TCAS 7.1 – show me it and how it works (they just want to see that you have the current version), extra pair of eye glasses if noted on medical certificate, show me working personal flashlights, show me the aircraft manuals, and how you know they are up to date, show me your duty time rules.
  • Remember, it’s not you that’s being inspected. It’s your aircraft. If you’re uncomfortable with the questions, get them noted and allow your operator to discuss later.
  • Every inspector is a little different. Work with them and you’ll find that 90% of your ramp checks will be over in 20 minutes with little issue.
  • That guy that says he’s flown for 30 years and never had a ramp check probably isn’t lying. There aren’t that many of them, and you might go a long time without them.
  • Private Operators – especially in GA (even more so under the 5700kg mark) – are far less likely to get ramp checked. EASA guidelines do apply to General Aviation, but they are far more interested in Commercial Operators.

 


The Countries

SAFA

47 Participating States – those not in the EU are in bold below, and green/orange above.

Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

 

The Checklist

 

Download by clicking above, or here: FSB SAFA RampChecklist

 

The Stats

These are interesting as background to the Program – although they are from 2012, which is the date of the most recent report from EASA on the SAFA program (thanks International Flight Resources for the summary)

 

– 2012 had just over 11,000 inspections performed, over twice as many as 2005.
– Most frequent private operator’s country of registration inspected was USA, Isle of Man, Germany
– Frequency of inspections is almost evenly split between EU and Non-EU countries. Largest number of SAFA locations were France (71), Italy (34), UK (31) and Germany (30)
– On average, 40 of the 54 possible items were inspected each time with 46% of the findings labeled “Significant”
– “Significant” findings are reported to the operator and the registered CAA. These will also require “Corrective action” prior to flight
– Latin American/Carib operators had the most number of findings
– USA and African operators were tied for second place
– Largest percentage of operators inspected: Germany (7.0%), Russian Federation and UK (6.8%), Turkey (4.9%) and USA (4.5%). France was 2.2%.

 

Resources:

 

How did your recent ramp check go down? Comment below …

The mystery of the missing Russian Weather

A little while ago, Russia stopped sending out METAR and TAF weather updates on the international wires for a whole bunch of airports.

This made life difficult for international operators, especially airlines and business jet operators that use Siberian alternates. If you don’t have the weather reports, you can’t use it.

In OpsGroup, one of our members reported that they now had issues getting weather for places like
UHHH/UHMA/UHMM/UHPP/UIBB/UIII/ULAA/ULLI/UNAA/UNKL/UNNT/USCC/USNN.

Then, another member pointed us at this official site – http://metavia2.ru/index.php?lng=en. But to register, you need to send an email, and nobody got replies.

So, the mystery remains unsolved. What do you know? Comment below, or email us at bulletin@fsbureau.org.

 

 

 

Here’s why North Korean missiles are now a real threat to Civil Aviation

  • July 2017: First launches of ICBM’s from North Korea
  • Western portion of Japanese airspace is a new risk area
  • New OPSGROUP guidance to Members, Note 30: Japanese Missile risk

The North Korean game has changed. Even if aircraft operators stopped flying through the Pyongyang FIR last year, nobody really thought there was much of a tangible risk. The chances of a missile actually hitting an aircraft seemed slim, and any discussion on the subject didn’t last long.

Things look different now. In July, the DPRK tested two Hwasong-14 Intercontinental missiles (the July 4th one is above), the first ICBM’s successfully launched from North Korea. ICBM’s are larger, and fly further, than the other missiles we’ve previously seen. Both of these landed in the Sea of Japan, well inside the Fukuoka Flight Information Region (Japanese airspace), and significantly, at least one did not re-enter the atmosphere intact – meaning that a debris field of missile fragments passed through the airspace, not just one complete missile.

We drew a map, with our best estimates of the landing positions of all launches in the last year that ended in Japanese airspace. The results are quite clear:


View large image

Zooming in even further, we can see each of the estimated landing sites. It is important to note that the landing positions vary in the degree of accuracy with which it is possible to estimate them. The highest accuracy is for the 28JUL17 landing of the Hwasong-14 ICBM, thanks to tracking by the Japanese Defence Force and US STRATCOM, as well as visual confirmation from land in Japan. The remaining positions are less precise, but in an overall view, the area affected is quite well defined – south of AVGOK and north of KADBO. In 2017, there have been 6 distinct missile landings in this area. The primary airways affected are B451 and R211, as shown on the chart.


View large image

So, in a very specific portion of Japanese airspace, there have been regular splashdowns of North Korean missiles. As highlighted by the Air France 293 coverage, this area is crossed by several airways in regular use, predominantly by Japan-Europe flights using the Russia route.

Determining Risk

The critical question for any aircraft operator is whether there is a clear risk from these missiles returning to earth through the airspace in which we operate. Take these considerations into account:

The regularity and range of the launches are increasing. In 2015, there were 15 launches in total, of short-range ballistic and sub-launched missiles. In 2016, there were 24 launches, almost all being medium-range. In 2017, there have been 18 so far, with the first long-range missiles.

– In 2016, international aviation solved the problem by avoiding the Pyongyang FIR. This is no longer sufficient. The landing sites of these missiles have moved east, and there is a higher likelihood of a splashdown through Japanese airspace than into North Korea.

– Almost all launches are now in an easterly direction from North Korea. The launch sites are various, but the trajectory is programmed with a landing in the Sea of Japan. From North Korea’s perspective, this provides a sufficiently large area to avoid a missile coming down on land in foreign territory.

– The most recent ICBM failed on re-entry, breaking up into many fragmented pieces, creating a debris field. At about 1515Z on the 28th July, there was a large area around the R211 airway that would have presented a real risk to any aircraft there. Thankfully, there were none – although the  Air France B777 had passed through some minutes before.

– Until 2014, North Korea followed a predictable practice of notifying all missile launches to the international community. ICAO and state agencies had time to produce warnings and maps of the projected splashdown area. Now, none of the launches are notified.

– Not all launches are detected by surrounding countries or US STRATCOM. The missile flies for about 35 minutes before re-entry. Even with an immediate detection, it’s unlikely that the information would reach the Japanese radar controller in time to provide any alert to enroute traffic. Further, even with the knowledge of a launch, traffic already in the area has no avoiding option, given the large area that the missile may fall in.

Can a falling missile hit an aircraft?

What are the chances? Following the AFR293 report on July 28, the media has favoured the “billions to one” answer.

We don’t think it’s quite as low.

First of all, that “one” is actually “six” – the number of North Korean missiles landing in the AVGOK/KADBO area in 2017. Considering that at least one of them, and maybe more, broke up on re-entry, that six becomes a much higher number.

Any fragment of reasonable size hitting a tailplane, wing, or engine as the aircraft is in cruise at 450 knots creates a significant risk of loss of control of the aircraft. How many fragments were there across the six launches? Maybe as high as a hundred pieces, maybe even more.

The chances of a missile, or part of it, striking the aircraft are not as low as it may initially appear. Given that all these re-entries are occurring in quite a focused area, prudence dictates considering avoiding the airspace.

What did we learn from MH17?

Whenever we discuss missiles and overflying civil aircraft in the same paragraph,  the valuable lessons from MH17 must be remembered. In the weeks and months leading up to the shooting down of the 777 over Ukraine, there were multiple clues to the threat before the event happened.

Of greatest relevance was that State Authorities did not make clear the risk, and that even though five or six airlines decided to avoid Ukrainian airspace, most other operators did not become aware of the real risk level until after the event.

Our mission at Flight Service Bureau is to make sure all aircraft operators, crews, and dispatchers have the data they need to make a fully informed decision on whether to continue flying western Japan routes, or to avoid them.

Guidance for Aircraft Operators

Download OPSGROUP Note to Members #30: Japan Missile risk (public version here)

Review the map above to see the risk area as determined by the landing sites in 2017.

Consider rerouting to remain over the Japanese landmass or east of it. It is unlikely that North Korea would risk or target a landing of any test launch onto actual Japanese land.

Check routings carefully for arrivals/departures to Europe from Japan, especially if planning airways R211 or B451. Consider the previous missile landing sites in your planning.

– Monitor nti.org for the most recent launches, as well as flightservicebureau.org and safeairspace.net.

OPSGROUP members will be updated with any significant additions or updates to this Note through member mail and/or weekly newsletter.

References

– Nuclear Threat Initiative – nti.org

– Opsgroup Note to members #30 – Public version

OPSGROUP – Membership available here.

– Weekly International Ops Bulletin published by FSB for OPSGROUP covering critical changes to Airports, Airspace, ATC, Weather, Safety, Threats, Procedures, Visas. Subscribe to the short free version here, or join thousands of Pilot/Dispatcher/ATC/CAA/Flight Ops colleagues in OPSGROUP for the full weekly bulletin, airspace warnings, Ops guides, tools, maps, group discussion, Ask-us-Anything, and a ton more. Curious? See what you get. Rated 5 stars by 125 reviews.

– Larger area map of Japan airspace risk 2017

– Contact team@fsbureau.org with any comments or questions.

Security Alert: Papua New Guinea Airports

AYZZ/Papua New Guinea – affecting AYPY/Port MoresbyAYMH/Mt. Hagen

The elections today and tomorrow in Papua New Guinea have created civil unrest. Counting irregularities in the highlands city of Mt Hagen sparked violent protests that have gone for several days, and led to the burning of buildings on July 27. The city’s airport has been closed, residents were warned roads were blocked and there were reports of gunfire. MPs from the Opposition National Alliance party clashed with police and members of the governing People’s National Congress (PNC) party at the Port Moresby airport.

As many operators use AYPY as a tech stop in the Pacific, please check the latest before operating.

Unannounced missile launch seen from 747 cockpit – the pics

North Korea has been the country of greatest concern when it comes to unannounced missile launches. Back in the day, they would advise ICAO of their plans, and a couple of fairly specific Notams could be issued to keep crews and airplanes away from the hot spots.

They stopped doing that for every launch a few years back – and now, there’s pretty much zero warning. On safeairspace.net, North Korea is still listed as Level 1 – Do Not Fly, primarily for this reason. Since most DPRK launches end in failure, the tracking of the missiles is anything but controlled. And therefore we worry.

This week, we’ve seen images from a Cargolux 747 enroute Hong Kong to Baku, whose crew encountered an unannounced test launch of a Chinese ballistic missile, with some amazing photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The route of flight, and location of the launch, can be seen here:

 

The full gallery can be seen at this blog.

 

26R at Bucharest is SHORT! 2 aircraft have now run off the end

A recurring theme at Bucharest, Romania: Runway 26R is shortened by about 1250m/4000 feet, and on Tuesday a Ryanair 737 became the second aircraft to run off the end in a couple of weeks: on June 22, a Turkish A321 did the same thing.

So, first, if you’re planning to land on 26R at Bucharest, be aware that it’s about 2200m/7000 feet long instead of the previous 3500m/11500 feet.

Word on the street is that there isn’t much in the Notams to remind you of this: there’s a (yawn) Trigger Notam pointing to an AIP Supplement that nobody will have on board:

A1240/17 NOTAMN
A) LROP B) 1706220000 C) 1707060000
E) TRIGGER NOTAM – AIRAC AIP SUP 03/17 WEF 22 JUN 2017
WORK IN PROGRESS AT BUCURESTI/HENRI COANDA AIRPORT.

Maybe a simple Notam that said …

A1240/17 NOTAMN
A) LROP B) 1706220000 C) 1707060000
E) Runway 26R is much shorter now! LDA 2237M

… would be better? Of course, since we haven’t evolved to using ASCII yet in the Notam system, we can’t use exclamation marks or correct case, but you get the idea.

Either way, heads up when heading to LROP.

 

Libya: it’s simple – don’t land, don’t overfly.

There has been a flurry of activity in Libya of late. The people with their hands on the AFTN printer for Libya have been putting out all kinds of information, advertising availability of aerodromes and the Tripoli FIR. All are welcome!

Don’t be too hasty.

Libya is still a desperately unstable country. A Notam published today (A0070/17) indicates that HLLM/Mitiga is open and available “H24 for International Flights and Diversions”.

We’d love you to come visit, they say. What the Notam doesn’t mention is that two weeks ago, 5 people were killed and 32 injured during fighting at the airport.

As a matter of update on the Libyan ATM situation, we can inform operators that there are 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.

Overflight through HLLL FIR is only approved by the Libyan authorities on one southbound route from RASNO-LOSUL but even this is subject to severe limitations and a degree of confusion as to who is actually authorizing flights to transit the airspace.

There are several NOTAMs issued by adjacent States prohibiting overflights on certain entry/exit points creating further complications.

Here’s a simple guide for you from FSB:

  1. Don’t overfly Libya or enter the Tripoli FIR, and don’t land in Libyan airports.
  2. Refer to 1.

 

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

 

Fighting at Tripoli Airport, 5 killed

July 5, 2017 – HLLM/Tripoli Mitiga : Intense fighting at the Airport yesterday, with 5 people killed and 32 injured. The fighting is ongoing between rival members of the Buni Brigade militia, which controls the airport terminal building. It is understood that there had been a falling out over the distribution of the income the militia earns from goods and passengers passing through the terminal.

Operations were switched to Mitiga from HLLT/Tripoli International in 2014, after that airport was severely damaged in the heavy clashes that broke out across the capital in mid-2014 and closed to all operations.

Also yesterday, July 4th, the first flight in three years to land at HLLT/Tripoli International arrived from Addis Ababa, which was a non-scheduled flight operated by Libyan Arab Airlines. There is no indication yet that HLLT is open again for regular traffic.

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

 

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