International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Tag: Caracas

Venezuela crisis: the impact on international ops

All operators, in particular those with an N-reg on the tail, should be aware of the rapidly deepening political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

There are shortages of food and many basic goods across the country. Since the start of 2018, there have numerous reports of boats full of starving Venezuelans, many of which left the country illegally, turning up on the shores of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. The U.N. is now warning of a humanitarian “catastrophe”, as worsening food shortages have seen looting and protests escalate over the past few months, claiming the lives of at least seven people so far.

In recent months, Colombia has tightened controls along it’s border with Venezuela, to try to curb the flow of thousands of migrants seeking to escape.

Here’s a summary of the current situation:

SVMI/Caracas Airport

  • The airport is located in an extremely high-risk area for armed robbery and kidnappings. Before suspending all flights to Venezuela in Aug 2017, Avianca hired bodyguards after shots were fired during a robbery of a bus carrying its crew. Some other carriers took to flying crew to spend the night in neighbouring countries, rather than risk staying overnight anywhere in Caracas. In Feb 2018, Ecuadorian state airline Tame joined Avianca in a long list of airlines that no longer operate to the country, including: Aerolineas Airlines, United Airlines, Aeromexico, Lufthansa, Alitalia and Air Canada. Most reports estimate that international traffic in Venezuela has dropped by around 65-75% since its peak in 2013.
  • Reports of airport officials detaining some passengers for long periods, often demanding bribes and confiscating personal items. The US have warned that “security forces have arbitrarily detained U.S. citizens for long periods”, and that “the U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.”
  • Colombia’s pilots’ association says its members who have flown to Venezuela have had to deal with contaminated fuel and hours-long delays as the National Guard pulls suitcases off flights to loot them.
  • On Aug 8, 2017, a Venezuelan lawyer was shot dead at a ticket counter at SVMI/Caracas airport. In 2016, an Egyptian visitor was killed walking outside the airport between terminals after arriving on a flight from Germany.
  • Frequent power and water cut across the country. The airport suffered power cuts in Dec 2017 and again in Mar 2018, forcing the suspension of all ops for several hours each time.

Travel advice   Western countries are all now recommending against “all but essential travel”. A large majority of airline carriers have now stopped operating to Venezuela, for a mix of reasons – not least because onward payment of ticket monies have been stopped by the Venezuelan government. The US describes the greatest current risks as social unrest, violent crime, pervasive food and medicine shortages, and the arbitrary arrest and detention on U.S. citizens.

Sanctions   Both the EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Venezuela, with specific restrictions on President Maduro himself. This creates an uncertain situation for foreign aircraft operating in Venezuelan airspace. So far there have not been any reported cases of any retaliatory sanctions, such as grounding of foreign aircraft, although with the crisis worsening, such measures are not out of the question.

Notable withdrawals   On August 1st, the UK Foreign Office followed the US in withdrawing family of personnel from their respective embassies. This is a common precursor to a deeper security risk, and in the last 5 years we’ve seen this pattern in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Then in Jan 2018, IATA closed its offices in Venezuela. They said that the exchange controls the government placed on taking money out of the country effectively left it with a debt to IATA of $3.8 billion, which it refused to pay.

Flight Ops   See below on overflight. There were interruptions to Notam and Metar service throughout 2017. At one point it appeared that SV** had lost its connection to the international AFTN system.

Airport Spy   The most recent OpsGroup member reports are not encouraging. The top report on SVMI is titled “Hazardous in Caracas”: “The operating conditions in Caracas have deteriorated to a new level. New ATC controllers that have been installed in the last few months do not speak English very well, if at all, and in some cases and they are issuing clearances not appropriate for IFR or terrain clearance. Tremendous caution should be exercised especially when moving internally within Venezuela. SVMI authorities are now demanding to see the complete insurance policy for the aircraft, not just proof of insurance. We had Spanish speaking personnel with us and when we questioned a local SVMI controller about not using English, his response was that we should all be speaking Spanish! “. More in AirportSpy. If you’ve been through recently, add your report.

Overflight   Operations through Venezuelan airspace do not require an overflight permit, and so there have been no incidences recorded of US aircraft being denied a permit. However, on several occasions in the last month, Venezuela has for short periods arbitrarily closed its airspace to overflying aircraft. A common problem with Venezuelan overflight is the denial of airspace entry due to unpaid navigation fees, which is why checking this in advance is recommended. This may be a tool used to deny US aircraft entry in the future. Plan operations through the SVZM/Maiquetia FIR with caution. To be clear, we do not assess any risk to enroute aircraft, but be mindful of the fact that if you do enter SVZM airspace, you may end up diverting to an SV** airport. Right now, that’s not ideal.

Avoiding Venezuela  If you elect to avoid SVZM airspace…

To the west:
– via Colombia (SKED/Bogota FIR) – permit required for all overflights.
– watch out if planning a flight through the TNCF/Curacao FIR – although a permit to overfly is not required here, they have started denying entry to non-IATA members if they have not prepaid for navigation fees in advance. More on that here.

To the east:
– via Guyana (SYGC/Georgetown FIR) – permit not required
– via Suriname (SMPM/Paramaribio FIR) – permit required
– via French Guyana (SOOO/Rochambeau FIR) – permit required unless operating a GA aircraft under 12.5k lbs.

For more detailed info on each country’s specific permit requirements, take a look here.

If you need a tech stop and previously used/considered SVMI, then look at alternatives like TNCC, TTPP, SBEG, SMJP. Use the OpsGroup planning map to figure your best alternate options.

Monday Briefing: Security in Caracas, Tripoli, UK Permit rules

Security issues rule out Venezuela, Libya Mar 23: SVMI/Caracas, Venezuela, and HLLT/Tripoli, Libya, should be off your tech stop or charter lists for the foreseeable future. Both airports have been subject to rising security risks over the last months, reaching a climax last week with a bomb attack on RWY 09/27 in Tripoli and increased civil unrest in Caracas.

New rules for UK Permits Mar 23 : Significant changes to the approval process for Landing Permits for the UK will take effect on 06 APR. CAA will take over the responsibility for issuing approvals from the Department for Transport (DFT). Also, previously, a cabotage objection could be raised by a group of UK Charter Operators – this is removed. A fee is likely to be charged by the CAA for permits from this point forward.

SVMI/Caracas, Venezuela Public unrest has raised tensions in the capital to the point where several airlines have suspended service, including Air Canada this past week. Coupled with the security issue is a payment issue, with the Venezuelan government not releasing ticket payments. SVMI remains open and operational, but not recommended. For tech stops, consider TNCC/Curacao just to the north.

Uxxx/Crimea Region. Following the referendum on 16MAR, Crimea is now officially Russian Territory. This places the Simferopol FIR under Russian Control, but service is still provided by Ukraine. Simferopol Sectors 3,4 and 5 are now controlled by Odesa, and Sectors 1 and 2 are controlled by Dnipropetrvosk. UKFF/Simferopol and UKFB/Sevastopol are closed to civil traffic. No decision has yet been made by the Russian CAA as to whether permits will be required to overfly Crimea. It seems unlikely that there will be any change to the present ‘no permit required’ situation in the coming weeks at least, though when Simferopol Airport reopens we would anticipate Landing Permits being required through Russia.

VTSP/Phuket – International restrictions due to construction until 31MAR. Slot and PPR require 48HR PN, Landing Permit requests should allow 10 days.

LIxx/Italy ATC Industrial action announced for 30MAR 1030-1430Z. For this and subsequent strikes, ENAC, the Italian provider, will accept a limited number of pre-arranged flights from each AO.

EHAA/Amsterdam FIR Due to Nuclear Summit in the Hague on 24 and 25MAR, most of the FIR is accessible by Prior Permission only, including all flights to EHAM, EHRD, EHEH. Contact nss.ppr@minienm.nl or +31 (0) 577453696.
LLOV/Ovda, Israel will be closed to all flights 01MAY-07MAY

DGAA/Accra, Ghana Until 23JUN, The main runway (03/21) is open daily from 0500-2300Z only; no traffic accepted outside these hours.

YPXM/Christmas Island is closed and unmanned at present due to a Cyclone.

HLLT/Tripoli, Libya was subject to a bomb attack on Friday. The device was placed on the centerline of RWY09/27 overnight and detonated with a timer. Most regular operators cancelled flights immediately, with no set date to resume operations.

OSDI/Damascus FIR – For those still overflying, Syria has closed airway L513 from BURSA to LEBOR UFN.
UK Charter Permits. Significant changes to the approval process for Landing Permits for the UK will take effect on 06 APR. CAA will take over the responsibility for issuing approvals from the Department for Transport (DFT). Also, previously, a cabotage objection could be raised by a group of UK Charter Operators – this is removed. A fee is likely to be charged by the CAA for permits from this point forward.

Turkey. Effective 10APR2014 Visa on Arrival is no longer available at Turkish Airports. Visitors must apply online through https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ for an e-Visa.

Australia. A reminder to all operators who are not ADS-B equipped, of the restrictions when operating into Australian Airspace effective from 15DEC13. If you not ADS-B equipped you must file with CASA, a Form 208 exemption application 14 days in advance of proposed operations into Australian Airspace. Then operations will be confined to the SSR radar coverage area extending from 200 nm north of Cairns down the East coast to 200 nm west of Adelaide. This is commonly referred to as the J curve. If you intend operating into the Brisbane or Melbourne FIRs from the west and north west of Australia, and are not ADB-B equipped you will be required to operate at FL290 or below.

URSS/Sochi Starting from 20JAN, including period of XXII Winter Olympic Games and XI Winter Paralympic Games 2014, airlines are obliged to send the passenger manifest with exact Name, Surname, Passport number and series, or other ID, Ticket number, 24 hours prior to departure and no less then 4 hours prior to departure – passenger manifest changes, when operating to Sochi International airport (IATA code-AER). Information should be sent to the following e-mails: Checkin_DIsp@aer.basel.aero, Chief_smena_SAB@aer.basel.aero. See NOTAM A3075, A4018.

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