UPDATE Friday 7 Sep 2018: HLLM/Mitiga Airport reopened on Sep 7, following a UN-mediated ceasefire between local militia. It had been closed since Aug 31 – the latest in a long string of closures due to heavy fighting in the area. We continue to advise against all ops to Libya, including overflights.
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.
THE FOLLOWING AREAS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE CONFLICT ZONES WITHIN HLLL FIR:
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 safeairspace.net.