International Ops 2017

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Special Report (page 1 of 10)

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.

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


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%.




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

Then, another member pointed us at this official site – 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




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 for the most recent launches, as well as and

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


– Nuclear Threat Initiative –

– 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 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, 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

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


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


Africa: Hajj 2017 routes in operation

From 20JUL, the Hajj routes for 2017 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 an vv), 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, Kano, Khartoum, N’Djamena, Niamey, Roberts, and Tripoli.

The Hajj routings are contained in this ASECNA AIP Supplement.


Qatar update – it’s getting worse

Following OpsGroup Note 28 on Monday (“Qatar sanctions“), there are some important new additions to the sanctions that all operators should be aware of:

Effective today, Bahrain now requires Special Authorisation for all traffic inbound to and out of Qatar. This one is critical because Bahrain controls almost all of the airspace around and over Qatar.

That requirement was just published today, Wednesday in Notam A0210/17. The preamble states that no Qatari registered aircraft can fly through Bahraini airspace. This one seems like it would be a big issue for Qatar Airways, but for all other international operators, the next part is equally important:

“Operators not registered in Kingdom of Bahrain intending to use Bahrain Airspace from or to the state of Qatar require approval from Bahrain CAA”

That means everyone now needs permission to get into Doha, because you can’t get into the Doha TMA without going through Bahrain Airspace, unless you are planning to route through Saudi Arabia (which already has that requirement). Check the map again below.

OBBB/BAHRAIN A0210/17 07JUN 1140Z

CAA ON THE FLW CONTACT: TEL:00973 17329035 / 00973 17329069

Jordan has joined the team

Governments of Jordan, Libya, Maldives and Mauritania have joined the other countries in severing their diplomatic ties with Qatar. The closure of borders with neighboring countries and the withdrawal of the diplomatic staff from various embassies in the region have resulted in restrictions on travel to and from Qatar.

Qatari Nationals

Qatar has urged its nationals to comply with the decision of the countries involved and leave the territories of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within 14 days of June 5, 2017. Qatari nationals should contact the respective consular posts abroad for assistance with travel arrangements and travel back to the country via Kuwait or Oman.

Bahraini, Saudi and UAE Nationals

Bahraini, Saudi and the UAE authorities have announced bans for their nationals from travelling, transiting or residing in Qatar. Those currently in Qatar are requested to leave as soon as possible.

Other Foreign Nationals Residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Holders of Residency Visas from Qatar will face difficulties in obtaining Visit Visas to countries which have closed their diplomatic representations in Doha, Qatar, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Foreign nationals residing in Qatar applying for visas to Egypt or Saudi Arabia may have to travel back to their home country to do so.

It is likely that foreign nationals residing in Qatar will face restrictions in obtaining a GCC Resident Visitor Visa to enter Bahrain or the UAE. Foreign nationals who are not eligible for a visa-on-arrival based on their nationality should prearrange their visas in advance and seek out other categories of sponsorship including airlines, hotels or tourist agencies.

It is unclear whether there will be any impact on foreign national residents of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE seeking entry to Qatar based on the GCC Resident Visitor Visa.

Courier Services

Courier services and document deliveries between Qatar and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are severely delayed. The majority of carriers are rerouting their shipments, while others, including FedEx, have suspended their services between the affected countries.


The Qatari-based broadcaster Al Jazeera has been banned in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Qatari beIN Sports channel has been suspended in the UAE.

The UAE’s General Prosecutor warned against showing any sympathy for Qatar on social media which is considered a cybercrime, punishable by law.



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