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USA allowed its passenger planes to fly near Crimea: is it safe

The American authorities allowed their planes to fly over the Black Sea near Crimea. As a result, the entire central and eastern Black Sea opens up for US passenger aviation, over which important routes from Asia to Europe run. But who will control these flights - Russia or Ukraine? Writes about it Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

The US Federal Aviation Administration in the second half of October issued a permit for flights in the Simferopol flight information region. This does not mean that the US authorities have recognized Russia's right to regulate air traffic over Crimea. Rather, on the contrary, they confirmed the authority of the Ukrainian air traffic controllers who operate this air navigation area from Odessa.

Simferopol flight information area is an aeronautical zone that includes the Kherson region, the Crimean peninsula and the entire central part of the sea. The dispatch center servicing the Simferopol FIR was located in the building of the Simferopol airport before the annexation.

During the operation to annex the Crimean peninsula in 2014, Russia was one of the first to take control of the airport. Ukraine then announced the closure of all airports in Crimea and the FIR regional center in Simferopol.

FIR management was taken over by dispatchers of Ukrainian centers in neighboring Odessa and Dnieper. But soon the Simferopol dispatching service started working again - Russia opened it, inviting dispatchers from the former, Ukrainian service to work.

For some time Russian and Ukrainian dispatchers tried to control the FIR from each side, but gradually the situation calmed down - now only Russian airlines fly to Crimea, and Russian dispatchers in Simferopol operate flights over the peninsula.

International routes that run over the Black Sea are de facto run by Ukrainian dispatchers located in Odessa.

This situation has existed for several years, but until now few dared to fly over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula - airlines and national aviation agencies feared that due to the high militarization of Crimea, the risk of an aircraft identification error might be too great.

Ukraine has declared the airspace over Crimea closed. The decision of the American authorities changed this situation.

Where can you fly

The change in the flight restriction regime for American aircraft in the Simferopol FIR was adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration and the US Department of Transportation. It was published on October 16th. Document - amendments to Special Federal Aviation Regulations (SFAR 113), which were adopted in 2018. These rules usually establish special operating procedures for US civil aviation in certain regions.

The new edition of SFAR 113 refers to the change in no-fly zones in two flight information areas - Simferopol and Dneprovsky.

The 2018 decree established one large zone, which included Crimea as well as eastern Ukraine, where fighting continued between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian militias.

From October 27, 2020, it will be divided into two - the zone above the war zone in eastern Ukraine will remain in the Dnieper FIR, and in Simferopol it will be reduced to Crimea and its coastal waters.

The Ukrainian Air Traffic Regulatory Agency “Ukraerorukh” has published a map of changes on its website. At the same time, the agency did not change the status of the airspace over Crimea - it still remains closed to international air transport.

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Merit of Ukraine

The new version of the rules states that the main danger to air traffic over Crimea is the activities of the Russian Federation, which annexed the peninsula and established its flight information area within the old FIR.

The requirement of Russian dispatchers to follow their instructions conflicts with the requirements of the Ukrainian ones, the document says. In addition, the danger of misidentification of civil aircraft by the military remains.

The reason for the cancellation of flight restrictions is called the activities of Ukraine, which did everything to ensure flight safety.

“Although the Federal Aviation Administration expects that the Russian Federation will continue to make illegal territorial claims and maintain an alternative control center, Ukraine has demonstrated a strong commitment to take appropriate measures to minimize residual safety risks in the Simferopol FIR given these circumstances,” the document says. ...

Ukraine, as noted in the document, constantly provides international aviation organizations with the results of monitoring risks on international air routes over the Black Sea, reports on all incidents and measures to eliminate them.

According to the new version of the rules, “as a result of persistent efforts by Ukraine,” the number of registered incidents related to “Russian aggression in Ukraine” in civil aviation dropped to zero in three and a half years of flights on the Black Sea routes in the FIR of Simferopol.

Who is responsible for the Simferopol FIR?

Officially, Russia has not reacted in any way to the change in American flight rules and the statements contained in their text.

Earlier in the report of the Federal Air Transport Agency on the results of work in 2018, it was said that the agency on an ongoing basis sends diplomatic notes through the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ukrainian Embassy in Russia “demanding that Ukraine stop unilaterally establishing temporary danger zones over the waters of the Azov and Black Seas at all heights at certain time periods ”.

The rationale, as follows from the report, is as follows: “the above temporary dangerous zones fall into the flight information region“ Simferopol ”, where the responsibility for air traffic services is assigned to the Russian Federation”.

Meanwhile, the new edition of the rules of the American Aviation Administration states that it is Ukraine that bears full responsibility for the provision of air navigation services in the Simferopol FIR. According to the document, this is recognized by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Aviation of the European Region.

Eurocontrol (EUROCONTROL) - the European organization for the safety of air navigation - also holds Ukraine responsible for the Simferopol FIR.

This, in particular, is stated in the Ukrainian report Local Single Sky Implementation (“Implementation within the local airspace”, LSSIP), drawn up at the end of 2019. The report is issued annually for each country that cooperates with Eurocontrol in the framework of the Single European Sky initiative to create a common European air navigation space.

The Ukrainian LSSIP-2019 states that the Odessa and Dnieper dispatch centers are engaged in organizing air traffic in the Simferopol flight information region, and the FIR "Simferopol" itself is assigned to Ukraine. Russia does not participate in this program, and such a document is not being prepared for it.

Finally, in the list of ICAO flight information regions, the FIR “Simferopol” belongs to Ukraine.

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Important region

Quite a lot of air routes pass over the Black Sea. One of the arguments for the partial lifting of the ban on flights in the Simferopol FIR, which is mentioned in the American document, was the impossibility of using the M747 route - the document does not specify exactly where this route runs, it only says that it partially passes in the area of ​​the Simferopol FIR, which was closed to American aircraft.

Some of these routes are so important that in December 2016 the European Aviation Safety Agency even authorized the use of two of them (L851 and M856), despite the fact that they partially pass in the Simferopol FIR - the M856 in the western part of the FIR stretches from north to south , and L851 in the southern part of the FIR stretches from southeast to northwest.

“If you do not fly through this zone, then you have to make a big detour, and in some directions you fly longer, spend more kerosene, flights are more expensive, and you lose your competitive advantage over companies that do not limit themselves in anything”, - told the BBC editor-in-chief of the portal Roman Gusarov.

According to the expert, there is no policy in the decision of the American departments - it is dictated only by economic reasons.

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