U.S. Bans Its Operators from Flying Over Syria

 - August 19, 2014, 9:37 AM
U.S. airlines may no longer fly over Syrian airspace, according to an order from the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo: American Airlines)

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a new Notice To Airmen (Notam) on Tuesday prohibiting U.S. operators from flying in the Damascus Flight Information Region (FIR), which covers all of Syria. The Notam replaces a previous notice in which the FAA “strongly advises” operators against flying in the Damascus FIR and required them to contact the agency before entering that airspace. “Based on an updated assessment of the risk associated with such operations and the lack of any requests from operators wishing to fly in this airspace, we believe it prudent to prohibit U.S. operators from flying into, out of, and over Syria,” said the FAA in a statement issued Tuesday. “The ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment in Syria poses a serious potential threat to civil aviation. Armed extremist groups in Syria are known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft.”

Opposition groups have successfully shot down Syrian military aircraft using such weapon systems during the course of the conflict and have warned civilian air carriers against providing service to Syria. The FAA said it would re-evaluate its Notam and the “associated justification” for the special notice by December 31.

On August 8 the FAA issued another Notam prohibiting U.S. airlines from operating over Iraq, parts of which remain under the control of the militant group Islamic State (ISIS). The ban came the same day U.S. military forces began airstrikes against militants in the northern part of the country. An earlier warning directed operators to fly at least 30,000 feet above the country due to the ongoing conflict. That notice superseded an earlier Notam prohibiting U.S. operators from flying below 20,000 feet.