January 7, 2015
Concerns surrounding Middle East airspace continue with South Sudanese warning
In July last year the FAA ordered a temporary ban on flights in and out of Tel Aviv after rockets landed close to Ben Gurion Airport, though the EASA did not invoke a total ban. In August, EASA demanded airlines to be cautious when operating in Syrian airspace and the FAA prohibited US airlines from flying in Syrian airspace. It was less than two months ago, on 13th November 2014, that EASA issued a bulletin regarding the increasingly perilous situation in the Sinai Peninsula: “Due to ongoing insurgent activity, operators of civil aircraft should be aware of the risk to flight operations safety in the Northern Sinai Governorate of Egypt deriving from possible use of small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and anti-aircraft fire, including shoulder-fired man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). The threat is considered to represent a significant risk to aviation overflying this area at or below FL260.” The EASA and FAA have now both issued warnings regarding airspace over southern Sudan.
Clearly closer interest is being paid to impending danger in airspace over volatile territories after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July last year, so caution is being exercised at various levels. Owing to the potential danger from small arms fire, RPGs, MANPADS and anti-aircraft fire, planes are advised to fly at no lower than FL260. “Considering current safety risks in South Sudan airspace, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommends all operators to exercise extreme caution if planning to fly into, out of, within or above the affected area and to monitor all relevant information, including NOTAMs. National Aviation Authorities should ensure that operators under their oversight are aware of such information,” EASA indicated in their latest safety bulletin. In referring to the southern Sudan problem in December last year, the FAA gave precise details of incidents where planes had been hit and fatalities incurred. “Aircraft, including civil aircraft, have been attacked during this conflict….. While some attacks have been intentional, command and control deficiencies likely have led both military and rebel forces to fire on civil aircraft by mistake,” they said.