03 Jun 2020
In assessing risk to flight over each countries borders,
two scenarios are predominant for civil flight:
1. Risk of shootdown, inadvertent or intentional.
2. Aircraft emergency requiring a landing.
Both these elements are taken into consideration in determining a classification. The highest level of risk here is “Moderate”, on the basis that calling it “high” or “severe” would exaggerate the actual level or risk in landing or overflying the territories concerned.
Three levels of airspace risk are used in our assessment.
LEVEL 1. Moderate risk - No Fly
LEVEL 2. Assessed risk
LEVEL 3. Caution
This document is intended to provide operator guidance in determining whether to avoid specific airspaces. Exclusion from this advice, naturally, does not mean that other airspace is risk free.
The countries that issue the most relevant updates for unsafe airspace are:
- US (FAA) – through Notams and SFARs
- UK (DFT) – AIP
- Germany (BMVI) – Notam
- France (DGAC) - AIC
Operators should note that in general, the Civil Aviation Authorities of the countries whose airspace is determined to be unsafe are unlikely to issue reliable guidance. Read more at safeairspace.net.
LEVEL 1: Moderate Risk - No Fly
For these countries, the basis for inclusion is the highly unstable current events on the ground, and in all cases the ground factions having access to MANPADS or SAMS. We strongly recommend avoiding this airspace entirely. All countries have multiple warnings, and your country of registry is likely to have issued specific instructions not to penetrate these airspaces
In the days following these events, many countries issued warnings to avoid the airspace of Iraq completely. Though some of these countries have since issued updated advice allowing overflights to resume at the higher flight levels, the US flight ban on Iraqi airspace was re-imposed on March 12, citing “heightened militia activities and increased tensions”.
Most airlines other than Middle Eastern carriers have now stopped overflying Iraq entirely. Traffic that normally operates through the Baghdad FIR now needs another route. The predominant choice for east-west flights into the Dubai area is a southerly routing via Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There are warnings for both of these airspaces as well. Northerly reroutes for Europe-Asia flights are predominantly using a Turkey-Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan routing.
The aviation security picture in the Middle East, already fragile and unstable, is now unpredictable. For many operators, you may be starting to use routes that are unfamiliar and not before flown. Take the time to ensure your crews have the full package of charts, are aware of the risks in each FIR, are aware of the potential for GPS outages en-route (especially in the Turkish FIR), and have considered drift down over mountainous areas on the northerly routes.
September 2018 - Russian military aircraft shot down on the border between Damascus and Nicosia FIR.
Israel carries out occasional airstrikes on Syrian territory. Russia has accused the Israeli military of putting commercial flights at risk, by timing their airstrikes on Syria too close to flights arriving at Beirut and Damascus airports. On Feb 6, a commercial A320 flight en-route to Damascus was forced to divert to Russia-controlled Khmeimim air base to avoid coming under fire from Syrian air defences. Damascus ATC instructed the plane to divert, as the Syrian air defence systems engaged four Israeli F-16s, and the civilian aircraft could have found itself in the crossfire.
Almost no traffic overflies Syria, and it should be avoided.
As clarity of cause emerged, many countries have slowly issued warnings to avoid the airspace of Iran and Iraq. We now classify both these countries as Level 1 - Do Not Fly airspace. Tehran and Baghdad FIRs are off limits. Operating to airports in either Iraq or Iran is equally unadvisable.
Just hours prior to the shoot-down of the Ukraine Int Airlines flight in Tehran on Jan 8, the US FAA issued “Emergency Order” Notams banning all US operators from overflying the airspace of Iraq and Iran. This was in response to an Iranian missile strike on US military bases in Iraq, which had just occurred the same night.
Other countries have since issued warnings: the UK, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, and France.
Most airlines other than Middle Eastern carriers have now stopped overflying Iran entirely. The aviation security picture in the Middle East, already fragile and unstable, is now unpredictable. For many operators, you may be starting to use routes that are unfamiliar and not before flown. Take the time to ensure your crews have the full package of charts, are aware of the risks in each FIR, are aware of the potential for GPS outages enroute (especially in the Turkish FIR), and have considered drift down over mountainous areas on the northerly routes.
In recent months there have been a number of airstrikes targeting HLLM/Tripoli Mitiga airport. There are videos on social media showing planes landing at the airport as shells are falling in the background. In Nov 2019, militia advancing on the capital, Tripoli, declared a no-fly-zone around the city, and there is now a very real chance that they will shoot-down civil aircraft attempting to fly to HLLM/Tripoli Mitiga airport.
Risk remains high across Libya at all flight levels, and avoidance of all airspace and airports is strongly recommended.
LEVEL 2: Assessed Risk
Assessed Risk applies to countries that are the subject of airspace warnings by EASA, FAA, UK DFT, German BMVI, French DGAC, but only for specific portions or below certain altitudes
-July 2019: British Airways suspends Cairo operations for one week due to security concerns
-In February 2017 an an SA-7 anti-aircraft missile tube was found less than a mile from HECA/Cairo airport.
-In October 2015 a Russian A321 was brought down over the Sinai peninsula by a bomb loaded at HESH/Sharm El Sheikh. The group claimed the IED was placed aboard the aircraft prior to departing HESH, raising concerns of potential insider threats at the airport.
There remains a threat from terrorism in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsular - most countries advise against operating to airports in this region, as well as overflights below FL260.
Possible shoot-down of an Embraer EMB-120 while on approach to Bardale airstrip on May 4, 2020, killing all six people on board. Local officials say the cause of the crash is not yet clear but there has been speculation it might have been shot down - either an intentional attack carried out by al-Shabab militants, or an accidental shoot-down by Ethiopian forces stationed in the region.
First: arms fire. Including MH17, multiple aircraft (the others all military) have been shot down since the beginning of the Donbass region war in 2014. Multiple ceasefires have been declared and violated. This risk is contained within the Dnipropetrovsk FIR – UKDV.
The second issue affects the Simferopol FIR which is Disputed Airspace. (Ukraine:UKFV, Russia:URFV). In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. The ATC Center is in Simferopol, Crimea, and is now run by Russia. Russia claims the airspace. Ukraine refuses to recognise the change, and asks crews to talk to Ukrainian controllers in Dnipro/Odesa ACC instead of Simferopol ACC. As the FAA point out, the risk here stems from aircraft “receiving confusing and conflicting air traffic control instructions from both Ukrainian and Russian ATC” when operating over the region.
Senegal and Niger control the airspace over Mali, and they have long-standing Notams (published under the GOOO/Dakar and DRRR/Niamey FIRs) warning that you can only fly between FL320-400 through the entire airspace in Mali north of the GABS/Bamako TMA due to military ops across the region.
LEVEL 3 : Caution
Caution applies to countries that do not have multiple current airspace warnings, but we consider worthy of a security review before operating into or over