The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Order for airlines that are licensed to operate in the United States, demanding air carriers to notify the authority whether they plan to fly over Afghanistan airspace.
Following the order, since no Air Traffic Control monitors Afghanistan airspace due to political uncertainty, the US airlines are obliged to ask for FAA’s permission once planning to cross over the country’s territory. In the special notice, NOTAM A0022/21, FAA identified three major risk factors for operating air carriers, including limited risk mitigation capabilities, as well as potential extremist activity and disruptions to air traffic services.
The document warns that US air carriers “are prohibited from operating in the Kabul flight information region (FIR) (OAKXX) at altitudes below Flight Level 260”.
Even though the notice does not prohibit US airlines to operate into and out of Hamid Karzai International Airport (KLB) when such operations are authorized by the authority with advance, air carriers are still “encouraged to operate on established air routes to the maximum extent possible”, the document says.
The new rule applies to “all US air carriers and commercial operators, all persons exercising the privileges of an airman certificate issued by the FAA, except when such persons are operating US-registered aircraft for a foreign air carrier, and all operators of aircraft registered in the US, except when the operator of such aircraft is a foreign air carrier.”
The FAA warned that in case of emergency, which requires “immediate decision and action for the safety of the flight“, the captain of an aircraft “may deviate from the NOTAM to the extent required by the emergency.” The US authority has not provided data yet on how many flights of US airlines will be affected by the recent order.
Even before the Taliban takeover, several countries have already implemented similar restrictions for their operators. For instance, Canada and the United Kingdom have already warned airlines not to conduct operations below FL250/260, and Germany advised that companies should not fly below FL330.
Reacting to a tense situation in the region, Canada implemented its restrictions for the flight level (NOTAM CZQX H2286/21) on July 28, 2021, and will keep them valid until October 28, 2021. Meanwhile, French authorities issued a NOTAM LFFF F1296/21 on August 16, 2021, and warned air carriers to avoid the Afghanistan airspace completely at least until September 1, 2021. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency followed other aviation authorities and issued a note on August 17, 2021, whose limits of validity have not yet been set.
The United Kingdom and Germany have been applying flight level limitations since October 2015, and July 2018, respectively. Both countries have not set the exact date for the end of the restrictions given.