April 4, 2014

Authorities have issued two separate notices regarding airspace over the Balkans and the Ukraine.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has issued new regulations for general (civil) air traffic (GAT) operating in the Balkans, essentially re-opening airspace over Kosovo to civil air traffic for the first time since 1999. The “Balkans” refers to the airspaces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the airspace over Kosovo. The airspace will be called the KFOR Sector.

NATO and Kosovo Force, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, have been controlling the airspace above Kosovo for almost 15 years. Airspace over the Balkans is controlled with air navigation service (ANS) structure in which portions of the airspace are still under NATO responsibility.

Prior to operating in this airspace, an operator must submit specific documentation including a release of liability and indemnification (ROL) agreement certifying their crews are fully briefed and trained on Balkan airspace procedures. Flight plans must be filed in accordance with ICAO procedures and should be filed at least six but not more than 24 hours in advance.

Pilots must check and comply with applicable NOTAMs and other information. Aeronautical data and information for the KFOR Sector is published as a supplement to the Hungarian Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). Airspace and flight level restrictions over the Balkans are subject to change with little or no notice.

In order to operate in this airspace, IFR GAT must:

  • Be on an approved IFR flight plan (both inbound and outbound)
  • Maintain two-way radio communications
  • Maintain contact with the appropriate ATC agency
  • Monitor UHF or VHF Guard for emergency broadcasts
  • Have operational Mode 3/A with Mode C (altitude information) and Mode S transponder
  • Check NOTAMs and other notices for latest airspace and/or airway information
  • Not deviate from approved routings unless fully coordinated with ATC due to military flights operating in close proximity to approved/published airways
  • Comply with national guidance on aircraft equipment systems and professional gear
  • Report any safety or security hazards to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible

Operators must remember that these regulations are to be applied in accordance with international laws and relevant national laws, whichever is more restrictive, of each nation within the Balkans.

The airspace opening will allow a predicted 400 to 500 aircraft per year to transit airspace over Kosovo, resulting in more efficient air travel.

The regulations became effective on April 3. Review the full NATO notice.

Flying in Ukranian Airspace

Meanwhile, the FAA has issued a special notice regarding a potentially hazardous situation in Ukrainian airspace, particularly over Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

The notice warns of the potential for conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities and the potential for misidentification of civil aircraft. U.S. flight operations are prohibited until further notice from operating in the airspace over Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Russian Federation is attempting to establish a new flight information region (FIR), which includes both Ukrainian sovereign airspace over the Crimean Peninsula and international airspace managed by the Ukraine.

According to the FAA notice, this move contradicts international law and ICAO standards and has resulted in NOTAMs published by each nation with conflicting instructions to airmen.

U.S. operators and airmen flying into, out of or within other Ukrainian airspace that is outside the lateral limits of the airspace over Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov must review all current security/threat information and NOTAMs; comply with applicable FARs, operations specifications, management specifications and letters of authorization (including updating B450); exercise extreme caution; and report any safety or security incidents to the FAA.

Review the FAA’s notice about flying in the area of Ukraine. (PDF)