On 10 April, Eurocontrol published a rapid alert notification from the European Aviation Safety Agency to its operations portal, warning of the possibility of missile activity in the ‘Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR’ and intermittent disruption to radio navigation equipment within 72 hours of publication. The message was first published by Eurocontrol at 15:19 UTC.
Update 12 April | 00:00 UTC
On 11 April, Kuwait Airways announced it will cancel flights between Kuwait and Beirut from 12 April onward, until further notice, due to security warnings. Kuwait Airways operates one daily flight (KU501/502) and one four-times-per-week flight (KU503/504) between Kuwait City and Beirut.
تود الخطوط الجوية الكويتية اخطار مسافريها الكرام بأنه وبناء على تحذيرات أمنية جادة وردت من السلطات القبرصية بخطورة الطيران بالأجواء المحيطة بجمهورية لبنان الشقيقة وحفاظاً على سلامة ركابنا الأعزاء والتزاماً من الكويتية بتطبيق معايير الأمن والسلامة -١
— Kuwait Airways (@KuwaitAirways) April 11, 2018
Also on 11 April, Middle East Airlines, based in Beirut, announced it will reroute and retime certain flights due to the ‘recent security situation between US and Syria’ through 13 April before reassessing the situation.
The EASA notification
The full notice published to the Eurocontrol operations portal reads as follows:
Please note that E A S A has issued ‘ Rapid Alert Notification for Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area’ stating that:
Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area.’
Aircraft operators are invited to check any relevant NOTAMs
Terms and geography
An FIR or flight information region is a defined unit of airspace for which a particular aviation authority has responsibility and control. The Nicosia FIR encompasses Cyprus and the surrounding waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The eastern portion of the Nicosia FIR borders Syrian airspace (Damascus FIR).
The EASA notification requests due consideration for operations in the Nicosia FIR in the eastern portion of the Mediterranean. At the moment we’ve detected no changes to flight planning in the region. Flights are transiting the Nicosia FIR as normal. We’ll update this post should that change.
Flights over Syria
The following series of images depicts air traffic at 12:00 local time in Damascus 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years in the past.
Many on social media have noted the lack of flight activity over Syria as an indication of impending military activity, however, we have not seen any data to indicate curtailed flight activity beyond already limited commercial flights. Civilian overflight of the Damascus FIR is already severely limited due to the ongoing conflict. Commercial flights avoid the north and northeast areas of Syria, while transiting the southern portion of the FIR. Flights operating in the eastern portion of the Nicosia FIR avoid transiting the area near Syrian airspace.
Also important to note, Flightradar24 coverage in Syria is limited as maintaining ADS-B receivers in the area is challenging. While we can rely on receivers located near Syria for ADS-B coverage, a lack of receivers deep inside Syria makes MLAT tracking impossible. This means that tracking aircraft broadcasting only Mode S and not yet equipped with ADS-B is unlikely.