Belarus

Risk Level: Three - Caution

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Several countries and aviation organisations have urged airlines and operators to avoid the airspace of Belarus, following the country’s interception of an international flight bound for Lithuania and forced to land in Minsk on May 23, 2021.

EASA is requesting member states to tell their operators to “not conduct operations” in the UMMV/Minsk FIR, unless it is to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances. Several member states have since issued Notams (which we have not listed here), but the language in these is a bit different - most say that EU operators are “requested” and foreign operators are “recommended” to not overfly Belarus.

The US has urged operators to “exercise extreme caution” until the FAA can better assess Belarus’ actions.

The forced landing of this flight was politically motivated, and the crew were misled into believing that there was a credible security threat against the aircraft. Understandably, this is of major concern to civil aviation.

However, we view this as a one-off incident, that is not likely to recur. We do not consider there to be additional risk to aircraft flying through the Minsk FIR. The warnings and advisories listed here are for reference only.

Current warnings list :

Source Reference Issued Valid to
EASA Safety Directive 2021-02 02 Jun 2021 Ongoing
USA Notam KICZ A0017/21 28 May 2021 Ongoing
EASA Safety Information Bullet 2021-10 25 May 2021 Ongoing
Source: EASA
Issued: 02-Jun-21, valid until: Ongoing
Plain English: EASA is requesting member states to tell their operators to “not conduct operations” in the UMMV/Minsk FIR, unless it is to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Subject: Operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV)

Applicability:
EASA Member States’ national competent authorities (NCAs) responsible for the certification and oversight of aircraft operators involved in air operations in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) 965/2012. EASA Member States’ NCAs responsible for the certification and oversight of Air Navigation Service Providers in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/373.

Reason:
On 23 May 2021, Ryanair flight FR4978, while overflying Belarus en-route to its final destination, Vilnius, was made to divert by Belarusian authorities and land in Minsk. The aeroplane ultimately departed and arrived in Vilnius with considerable delay after several passengers were forcibly disembarked in Minsk.

The circumstances surrounding this action cast serious doubts on the respect shown by Belarus for international civil aviation rules and is indicative of an abuse of air navigation procedures by the Belarusian authorities. As such, it is a breach of the principles underlying the mutual trust that are at the cornerstone of international civil aviation.

Until an international investigation clarifies the circumstances, EASA has reservations whether the Belarusian airspace can still be considered as safe for civilian flights by the international community, as there is no full confidence in the ability of the current Belarusian authorities to manage the Belarusian airspace in accordance with international agreements.

On 25 May 2021, EASA issued Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) 2021-10 advising aircraft operators, having their principal place of business in one of the EASA Member States, to avoid operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV), unless the use of that airspace is deemed necessary to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances.

On 27 May 2021, the ICAO Council decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation of this event, and in this connection requested the ICAO Secretariat to prepare an interim report to the Council for a subsequent meeting of the current session, presenting the available facts and relevant legal instruments.

Information from air traffic management indicates that there are still operators having their principal place of business in EASA Member States that continue to operate in the FIR Minsk (UMMV). Accordingly, and after consulting with the EASA Member States and the European Commission, EASA decided to issue this SD determining safety objectives to be achieved and recommending corrective measures to be taken by the EASA Member States’ NCAs to ensure safety of aircraft operations.

Furthermore, in order to support the swift and uniform implementation of the appropriate measures within the EU and supporting the centralised flight planning system, EASA Member States are recommended to promulgate NOTAMs informing the operators about the measures taken pursuant to this SD.

EASA will monitor the developments in relation with this case and will adjust the recommendations accordingly. Such reviews will be done whenever the circumstances will require it and in any case at intervals not exceeding one month.

Safety Objective(s) to be achieved:
Reduce the potential risk to passengers and crews by avoiding operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV)

Recommended Corrective Action(s) to be taken:
Pending the finalisation of an international investigation into the incident that occurred on 23 May 2021 initiated by the ICAO Council on 27 May 2021, or until further notice:

(1)  EASA Member States’ NCAs should ensure that aircraft operators having their principal place of business in their territory will not conduct operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV), unless the use of that airspace is deemed necessary to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances. 

(2)  In accordance with Paragraph (1) of this SD, EASA Member States’ NCAs should take all necessary measures to ensure prompt implementation of those restrictions, including measures related to the flight planning system and the issuance of a NOTAM to notify the restriction(s) to avoid operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV). 

Information on the actions taken:
(3) NCAs shall take measures to achieve the determined safety objective within 2 days from the effective date of this SD and inform EASA of those measures. This can be accomplished by reporting to ADs@easa.europa.eu.
Source: USA
Issued: 28-May-21, valid until: Ongoing
Plain English: Operators should “exercise extreme caution” in the UMMV/Minsk FIR until the FAA can better assess Belarus’ actions surrounding the May 23 interception and diversion of a passenger jet and the potential for Belarus to repeat similar actions in the future.
SECURITY..UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ADVISORY FOR MINSK FLIGHT INFORMATION REGION (FIR) (UMMV).

THOSE PERSONS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH A (APPLICABILITY) BELOW ARE ADVISED TO EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN FLYING INTO, OUT OF, WITHIN, OR OVER THE MINSK FLIGHT INFORMATION REGION (FIR) (UMMV) UNTIL THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) CAN BETTER ASSESS THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE 23 MAY 2021 DIVERSION OF A CIVIL PASSENGER AIRCRAFT TO BELARUS. FAA EVALUATION OF THE PENDING INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION REPORT IS NECESSARY TO DETERMINE THE ASSOCIATED SAFETY IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. CIVIL PASSENGER-CARRYING OPERATIONS IN THE MINSK FIR (UMMV).

A. APPLICABILITY. THIS NOTAM APPLIES TO: ALL U.S. AIR CARRIERS AND COMMERCIAL OPERATORS CONDUCTING PASSENGER-CARRYING OPERATIONS; ALL PERSONS EXERCISING THE PRIVILEGES OF AN AIRMAN CERTIFICATE ISSUED BY THE FAA CONDUCTING PASSENGER-CARRYING OPERATIONS, EXCEPT WHEN SUCH PERSONS ARE OPERATING U.S.-REGISTERED PASSENGER AIRCRAFT FOR A FOREIGN AIR CARRIER; AND ALL OPERATORS OF U.S.-REGISTERED CIVIL AIRCRAFT CONDUCTING PASSENGER-CARRYING OPERATIONS, EXCEPT WHEN THE OPERATOR OF SUCH PASSENGER AIRCRAFT IS A FOREIGN AIR CARRIER.

B. PLANNING. THOSE PERSONS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH A (APPLICABILITY) PLANNING TO OPERATE INTO, OUT OF, WITHIN, OR OVER THE ABOVE-NAMED AREA ARE STRONGLY REMINDED TO REVIEW CURRENT SECURITY/SAFETY INFORMATION, AND STRONGLY ADVISED TO CONSIDER THIS NOTAM DURING OPERATIONAL RISK ASSESSMENTS FOR PASSENGER-CARRYING OPERATIONS. THOSE PERSONS MUST COMPLY WITH ALL APPLICABLE FAA REGULATIONS, OPERATIONS SPECIFICATIONS, MANAGEMENT SPECIFICATIONS, AND LETTERS OF AUTHORIZATION, INCLUDING UPDATING OPERATION SPECIFICATION B450.

C. OPERATIONS. ANY PERSON DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH A (APPLICABILITY) PLANNING TO OPERATE INTO, OUT OF, WITHIN OR OVER THE ABOVE-NAMED AREA SHOULD EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION DURING FLIGHT OPERATIONS DUE TO THE NEED FOR FURTHER EVALUATION OF BELARUSS ACTIONS ON 23 MAY 2021 AND THE POTENTIAL FOR BELARUS TO REPEAT SIMILAR ACTIONS TO WHAT OCCURRED ON 23 MAY 2021 IN THE FUTURE. THOSE PERSONS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH A (APPLICABILITY) MUST REPORT SAFETY AND/OR SECURITY INCIDENTS RELATED TO THIS NOTAM TO THE FAA AT +1 202-267-3333.

SFC - UNL, 28 MAY 19:24 2021 UNTIL PERM. CREATED: 28 MAY 19:40 2021
Source: EASA
Issued: 25-May-21, valid until: Ongoing
Plain English: EU and Third Country Operators should avoid the UMMV/Minsk FIR.
Subject: Operations in Belarus Airspace

Applicability:
Aircraft operators having their principal place of business in one of the EASA Member States (MS), and Third Country Operators authorised by EASA, when conducting operations to, from and within the EU.

Description:
On 23 May 2021, Ryanair flight FR4978, while overflying Belarus en-route to its final destination, Vilnius, was diverted by Belarusian authorities and forced to land in Minsk. The aeroplane ultimately departed and arrived in Vilnius with considerable delay after several passengers were forcibly disembarked in Minsk.

The circumstances surrounding this action cast serious doubts on the respect shown by Belarus for international civil aviation rules. The operational control of an aircraft rests with the operator and the aircraft commander, and they bear full responsibility for assessing the risk of any situation and for the subsequent decision making. The actions undertaken by Belarus amounted to an increased safety risk for the above-mentioned flight and put into question the ability of Belarus to provide safe air navigation services.

At this time, the safety concern described in this SIB is not considered to be an unsafe condition that would warrant Safety Directive (SD) action under Regulation (EU) 965/2012, Annex II, ARO.GEN.135(c).

Recommendation(s):
Pending the finalisation of an international investigation into the incident that occurred on 23 May 2021:
- Operators, having their principal place of business in one of the EASA MS, should avoid operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV), unless the use of that airspace is deemed necessary to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances.
- Third Country Operators authorised by EASA, when conducting operations to, from and within the EU, are advised to avoid operations in FIR Minsk (UMMV), unless the use of that airspace is deemed necessary to ensure safe operation in case of unforeseen circumstances.