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FAA warns pilots for Ethiopian airspace

Christian Fernsby |
FAA is advising pilots to exercise caution when operating in Ethiopian airspace below FL290.

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The ongoing conflict between opposition groups and military forces poses potential risks to U.S. civil aviation in the Addis Ababa Flight Information Region (FIR) (HEthiopian airlines), particularly for aircraft on the ground and aircraft operating at low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure phases of flight.

For this reason, on 17 November 2021, the FAA published Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) KICZ A0035/21.

Conflict activity in Ethiopia began in November 2020, when the opposition Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), located in the northern Tigray Region along Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, claimed autonomy from the Ethiopian central government over political differences. The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) conducted an offensive to attempt to regain territorial control of the Tigray Region, which included airstrikes against strategic targets in Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) held areas in the north and the closure of airspace over the conflict area in the Tigray Region.

Although there has been no indication of an intent to threaten civil aviation, U.S. civil aviation operating in or near contested areas in the Addis Ababa FIR (HEthiopian airlines) at altitudes below FL 290 could be exposed, directly or indirectly, to tactical air operations, ground weapons fire, and/or surface to air fire.

The TDF likely possess a variety of anti aircraft capable weapons, including rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), anti tank weapons, low caliber anti aircraft artillery, and man portable air defense systems (MANPADS). MANPADS may be capable of reaching up to 25,000 feet above ground level.

Additionally, civil aviation operations during low altitude phases of flight could also be affected by unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations in contested areas and by any potential counter UAS activity. Lastly, former ENDF SA 3 and SA 2 tactical surface to air missile (SAM) sites located in the

Tigray Region, which are now under TDF control, remain a potential risk to civil aviation operating in the airspace over the Tigray Region within which Ethiopia has restricted flight operations.

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