US FAA issues new Ukraine warning

By David Mumford

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On April 13, the US FAA published an updated Note warning of escalating tensions in the east of Ukraine along the border with Russia. Canada has also published an airspace warning, advising operators to avoid the UKFV/Simferopol and UKDV/Dnipropetrovsk FIRs in the east of the country due to the risk from heightened military activity and anti-aviation weaponry.

There has been a large military build-up in this area recently, along with an increase in ceasefire violations. In the FAA’s updated Note they state there have been new reports of GPS jamming in the area, along with known surveillance of civil flights by military systems.  Essentially, similar conditions to those prior to the shoot-down of MH17 in 2014. Should hostilities escalate, the airspace on both sides of the border could be exposed to potential weapons activity posing a risk to civil aircraft from misidentification or misperception.

You can download the FAA Information Note in full by clicking below, and read more about recent events here.

Click to download PDF.

Airspace Warnings

Of all the western countries to have issued airspace warnings for Ukraine, the US provide the most detail. Their warning is essentially quite straightforward though – US operators are banned from overflying the eastern part of the UKDV/Dnipropetrovsk FIR due to a continued threat of arms fire in the region.

Despite a ceasefire in 2019, some conflict-related airspace activity in the East has continued. In April 2020, Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian military UAV, and later that month an OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitoring mission UAV was shot down by small arms fire. Ultimately, the conflict is still ongoing here, with both sides possessing significant ground-to-air weaponry, and there are no good procedures in place to mitigate against the risk of accidentally shooting down civilian aircraft.

So the US say that everything east of ABDAR–M853–NIKAD–N604–GOBUN is prohibited. Airways M853 and N604 are off-limits as well. Operations to UKHH/Kharkiv, UKDD/Dnipropetrovsk and UKDE/Zaporizhzhia airports are permitted.

Here’s how that looks:

Click to open high-res version.

What about the UKFV/Simferopol FIR?

The situation here is entirely different. This region is not affected by the ongoing war in the East. The risk here is quite separate – it stems from the fact that it’s disputed airspace, with aircraft potentially receiving confusing and conflicting air traffic control instructions from both Ukrainian and Russian ATC. 

In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and Ukraine disputed this. The ATC Center is in Simferopol, Crimea, and is now run by Russia. Russia claims the airspace, and now refer to it as the URFV FIR. Ukraine refuses to recognise the change, and still calls it the UKFV FIR – and asks crews to talk to Ukrainian controllers in Dnipro/Odesa ACC instead of Simferopol ACC.

In October 2020, the US entirely removed their restrictions on overflights of the UKFV/Simferopol FIR, as they said the security situation had sufficiently improved here. While Russia continues to assert territorial claims over this region, Ukraine has established appropriate risk management measures to ensure safe operations for aircraft along the Black Sea routes.

The US FAA said that Ukraine has “demonstrated a sustained commitment” to ensuring civil aircraft are protected from misidentification. There have been no clashes since the 2018 Kerch Strait maritime incident, and the Russian presence has greatly reduced, with Russian aggression in the region reducing to near zero levels.

In simple terms – since 27th October 2020, US operators have been able to overfly the Simferopol FIR once more.

What are other countries saying about Ukraine?

Aside from the US, several other countries consistently publish airspace warnings: the UK, Germany, France, and Canada

UK and France: both have warnings in place advising against all ops over both of these Ukrainian FIRs, with the exception of airways L851, M856, M860, and M854 in the UKFV/Simferopol FIR.

Germany: does not have any published warnings in place at all.

Canada: avoid the UKFV/Simferopol and UKDV/Dnipropetrovsk FIRs due to risk from heightened military activity and anti-aviation weaponry. Exercise caution across the rest of Ukraine’s airspace.

For more details on Ukraine and other airspace warnings, head to SafeAirspace.net

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member, Flight Dispatcher. International flight ops news hound.

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