The prospect of US-led military action against the Assad regime in Syria has prompted the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to issue pre-emptive warnings for airlines operating in Eastern Mediterranean airspace.
On 10 April, EASA advised airspace users that air-to-ground and cruise missiles could be used in the coming 72 hours, with the additional risk of disruption to navigation equipment.
The EASA ‘Rapid Alert Notification for Eastern Mediterranean/Nicosia FIR Area’ advised airlines that “due consideration needs to be taken”, and all relevant Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) should be checked.
The EASA warning was also relayed by Eurocontrol via its Network Operations Portal.
A revised Conflict Zone Information Bulletin for Syrian airspace, issued by EASA in October 2017, already warns that the hazardous security situation in the country, “with the presence of terrorist organisations and ongoing high-intensity military operations”, means that civil aircraft are at risk of either intentional targeting or attack due to misidentification.
“The presence of a wide range of ground-to-ground and dedicated anti-aviation weaponry poses a HIGH risk to operations at all flight altitudes,” EASA notes.
Warnings from national aviation safety regulators in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States reinforce the EASA guidance.
Most international airlines already shun Syrian airspace, as anyone can see online from real-time flight information websites – so in a sense the latest warning is not a radical development. However, airspace safety regulators tend to be reactive rather than proactive in their guidance to airlines on avoiding conflict zones, so the pre-emptive warning from EASA is unusual, and it reinforces the impression of imminent military action from the United States and its allies.