Friday 21 June 2019

IRAN: Airlines Avoid Flying In Iran Air Space After US Ban

Qantas will re-route flight paths to avoid parts of Iran after the United States aviation regulator issued an emergency order banning US airlines from certain areas amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

The US Federal Aviation Administration on Friday banned US carriers from flying in Iran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone.

The FAA said there were numerous civilian aircraft operating in the area when the drone was shot down and that it was concerned about the escalation of tension and ministry activity close to high-volume aircraft routes.

The US carrier United Airlines has also suspended its flights from Newark in New Jersey and Mumbai, India, which goes through Iranian airspace following a thorough safety and security review.

Qantas flights to and from London, both via Singapore and non-stop from Perth, frequently fly over Iran.

A spokesman for the airline said it was adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf
of Oman until further notice.

The airline also often flies through Iraq as an alternative passage through the Gulf region, and expects the impact on flying time to be negligible.

Other carriers such as Singapore Airlines commonly used by Australians flying to Europe fly the same route over Iran.

Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways flights in the area prohibited for US carriers at 1pm on Friday.

The FAA’s directive does not apply to Australian-flagged carriers, and Australia’s aviation regulator does not have the power to tell airlines where they can or cannot fly.

Australian airlines use their own safety management systems to decide whether to avoid flying in certain areas. Those systems consider safety advice from numerous sources, including bodies like the FAA.

The FAA's announcement came over an Iranian surface-to-air missile on Thursday bringing down the US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk, an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner and costing over $US100 million ($144 million).

The US said it made plans for limited strikes on Iran in response, but then called them off.

The downing of the drone was the latest of a series of incidents in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, that included explosive strikes on six oil tankers.

The FAA previously warned commercial aircraft of the possibility of Iranian anti-aircraft gunners mistaking them for military aircraft.

In July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, prompting carriers to take more steps to uncover threats to their planes.

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