Special Report: Crimea and Simferopol FIR

By Declan Selleck


Questions and Answers

What’s happening?
Russia has claimed territorial control over Crimea, leading to the reopening of Simferopol ACC after a three week closure, and the same claim over airspace. Ukraine, under a new government, has defied the move, issuing its own NOTAMs to declare Russia’s move invalid.

Can we enter the Simferopol FIR?
In short, Yes. The airspace is not closed. However, it’s probably not a good idea, if you can avoid it. Two countries have claimed authority over the running of ATC – Russia and Ukraine, and there is no clear winner. For some operators there will be no choice but to enter, so see below for advice.

Can I file a flight plan to enter the Simferopol FIR?
Yes, if you’re outside Europe. However, any FPL filed within the IFPS Region (ie. Eurocontrol) will be rejected if it contains a routing through the Simferopol FIR.

What if we decide to enter the airspace? Are there any sanctions or restrictions?
No, there aren’t any legal or diplomatic sanctions preventing this, only Flight Planning restrictions from Eurocontrol. On the first day that Simferopol ACC was open, 145 flights were handled through the FIR, primarily non-European operators. If you do enter, we recommend:
•    Two VHF sets – one on Simferopol frequency, one on Odesa or Dnipropetrovsk frequency
•    Contact and remain in contact with both controllers, as long as possible
•    Fly standard levels, do not request a level change
•    Monitor TCAS
•    Consider any instruction to change level or routing carefully, and coordinate with both ATC’s.

Is this is the same situation as Ercan (Cyprus) ?
Kind of. Since 1974 there has been Disputed Airspace over the northern part of Cyprus, and two stations vie for control of the airsapce – Ercan and Nicosia. However, there are a couple of important differences. First, ICAO has declared it’s recognition only of Nicosia, this is not the case in Crimea, where ICAO has only said it’s unsafe at present, so avoid. Second, there are clear instructions for crossing that airspace – for Crimea, at present, there are no procedures – again, only an advice to avoid.

Do I need a permit to enter Simferopol FIR?
Not at present, but this could change fast. Officially, Russia has declared the FIR to fall under the same rules as the rest of Russia, which means that a permit should be required to enter the airspace. However, there are two complicating factors.

1. A number of “Non-Sovereign routes” run through the Black Sea that Russia does not require a permit for (as the next sector is Rostov-on-Don airspace), requiring only advance notification to UUUWZDZX. Simferopol FIR would likely follow the same logic, though this has not been published.

URRV FIR (Rostov) Non- Sovereign Routes

2. The second factor is that the confusion at present is allowing leniency for overflight permits. However, if the situation is resolved with Russia being recognised as the sole controlling Authority, then flights over Crimean landmass will absolutely require a permit to overfly.

What about the Airports in Crimea? Is Simferopol open?
Yes, Simferopol is open to civil traffic, and a permit is required from the Russian Authorities. The process follows the same procedure as in the rest of Russia, with local Crimean approval, and also Federal approval required. Sevastopol is lesser used in any case, but may be available.

Is there any security risk in overflying Crimea?
No. The situation on the ground in Crimea is very stable, and there is no determined risk of any ground-air strikes or anything affecting security of flight.

Is there a safety risk in overflying Crimea, or entering the Simferopol FIR?
At the moment, yes. There is a risk level, although relatively minimal, due to the potential for confusion as to the correct controlling authority. The risk is highest near the airspace boundaries with other Ukrainian sectors. There is likely to also be an increased volume of traffic speaking Russian and therefore reducing situational awareness for international crews overflying.

So, is Simferopol an “Illegal” ATC Station?
No. Their authority is questioned by Europe, but they are fully trained, valid controllers, with ICAO recognised licenses. It’s worth remembering that although Simferopol is currently declared “illegal” by some adjacent sectors, they are the same controllers that were operating that airspace just three weeks ago, and have done so for decades. If you are in there, you should at least be talking to them, not least because they will have control of conflicting westbound Russian traffic that will not be in contact with other sectors.

What happens westbound from Russia?
If you are entering Simferopol FIR from Rostov-na-Donu FIR, you will be transferred in a normal fashion to Simferopol ACC on the usual (historic) frequencies. Once approaching the boundary with Odessa or Dnipro you should make contact at least 10 minutes in advance.

Is there any co-ordination between Simferopol and Odesa, or Dnipropetrvosk ATC ?
We’re uncertain, but we believe flight information is being exchanged in terms of boundary estimates and OLDI interchange. However, verbal communications are not likely cooperative at the moment, given the disputed control of the airspace.

When will this be resolved?
Hard to say, and the question that everyone is asking. The Ukraine NOTAMS are valid until 14APR, but that indicates little. A long term avoidance of the Simferopol FIR is unlikely due to commercial pressure. At a minimum, the airspace south of the landmass, ie. L850 and south, could be expected to be made available in the event of an ongoing standoff.

More on the topic:

More reading:

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Declan Selleck

Declan Selleck

Declan is a Flight Service Specialist with OPSGROUP.

Leave a Reply

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap