International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Tag: Safeairspace

Dubai to London – which way is best?

In Short: Two main options, via Saudi and Egypt (safer, cheaper but longer) or via Iran and Turkey (shorter, busier and geo-politically more unstable). It’s a complicated planning climate at present. Review regularly based on latest risk factors.   

There are more business aviation operators flying between the Middle East and Europe than ever before. So we took the time to look over the route options between the two regions. For our example we will be using a flight from Dubai to London, but similar operational considerations are valid for the plethora of route combinations through this whole region.

Firstly, we are sure you are a frequent visitor to our safe airspace website. Updated all the time with the latest notes and risk recommendations based on the latest intel. So, first things first, we want to avoid Syria, Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. As you can see however, this is a complicated geo-political region for flight planning. The direct great circle route would take us through Syria and would be around 3125nm. But that isn’t going to work. So, what else we got?

We will look at the two ways to head over the region. One is via Iran, Turkey and onwards to Europe. The other over Saudi Arabia and Egypt towards Europe.

Option 1: Iran/Turkey

Safety: Both Iran and Turkey are FSB Risk Level: Three – Caution. Iran is involved in the ongoing conflict with Syria and several Russian missiles crossed the Tehran FIR and several busy international routes. There are also increased tensions between the USA and Iran at present – if you had to divert in an N-reg aircraft, Iran would not be the friendliest of places to do so. Turkey borders with Syria and we have received multiple reports of GPS interference in the area.

Distance: an extra 100nm.

Time: About 15 minutes longer than great circle route.

Ease and Cost: Iran has higher overflight costs and for US based operators a reminder of the sanctions for dealing directly with Iran, or agencies in Iran. You’ll want to use an approved agent if you’re from the US (i.e.–not an Iranian company). Iran doesn’t work on Fridays, so be aware there. Turkish overflight costs are reasonable and remember that Turkish authorities require the use of an agent to apply for permits.

Traffic: The biggest issue with this route is that everyone is using it! It’s congested with a lot of airline traffic. It’s a major corridor for Asia-Europe flights also. So, getting the levels you want, and off route deviations are more complicated. Things get busy, as you can see!

Option 2: Saudi/Egypt

Safety: In terms of airspace warnings and risk, this route is slightly better. We have rated Saudi and Egypt airspace as FSB Risk Level: Two – Assessed Risk. Beyond the Sinai Peninsula and the Saudi/Yemen border, generally there is less of a chance of airspace security risks at present.

Distance: An extra 300nm from the great circle.

Time: Around 45 minutes longer.

Ease and Cost: Saudi and Egyptian airspace are generally a cheaper option ($1,000USD+). In Egypt, by law you have to get your permit through an Egyptian agent, but it’s a straight forward process. In Saudi, again, using an agent is best; they normally have three-day lead time – so keep that in mind. Also remember that the CAA only work Sun-Wed during office hours.

Traffic: For most of the day, much less of a traffic bottle neck.


Bottom line

Of the two options, routing via Saudi/Egypt is cheaper, and safer (as long as you steer clear of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsular and Saudi’s border with Yemen), but it’s going to take slightly longer.

What about Iraq?

We don’t think it’s a good idea. There’s a lot of information out there saying certain airways are ok but only at higher levels. But if you needed to get down fast, or even make an unexpected landing, Iraq isn’t the place you would want to go at present. Treat with caution.

Which one is your favourite choice? Let us know!

Further reading:

HLLL Tripoli FIR 2018 Operational Changes – Libya

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.

HLLL/LIBYA A0067/18 
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.

More:

Saudi Arabia added to warning list

With a publication date of tomorrow (May 10), there is a new French AIC coming out “15/18: OVERFLIGHT OF CONFLICT ZONES“.

Of note is the new addition to the list – Saudi Arabia.

These French AIC’s use careful wording so as to completely avoid mentioning the specific threat for each country it includes in its list, but clearly in the case of Saudi Arabia, this new warning is related to the increased missile activity along the border with Yemen. The new advice to French carriers (but in reality, everyone) is:

– To exercise caution during flight operations in the airspace of Saudi Arabia (OEJD/JEDDAH FIR) and follow instructions given by the Saudi authorities providing air traffic services, particularly in the southwest of Saudi airspace in which SCATANA (Security Control of Air Traffic and Air Navigation Aids rules) may be activated by NOTAM by the Saudi authorities;

– Not to operate any flights to OEAB/Abha, OEGN/Jazan, OENG/Nejran, OESH/Sharurah, OEWD/Wadi Al Dawasir and OEBH/Bisha airports located in the southwest of the FIR – these airports should not be planned as alternates either.

The advice here is similar to the existing German Notam issued back in March, which warns against flying close to the border with Yemen, and to avoid landing at OEAB/Abha airport. The German Notam also makes a point of referencing the risk of operating to both OEJN/Jeddah and OERK/Riyadh, due to the high number of missile attacks launched against these airports from within Yemen recently.

With the overall increase in missile activity in the southwest of the country, there is now a clear risk to operations in Saudi airspace, even outside the SCATANA area. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen remains complex and volatile. Safeairspace continues to provide up-to-date information for both Saudi and Yemen airspace.

Further reading:

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