Russian authority concerned over adequacy of Nagorno-Karabakh safety measures

Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee has issued a warning over the potential risk to civil aircraft arising from the resurgence in hostilities in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucasus.

The territory, located in south-western Azerbaijan, has been the source of conflict with neighbouring Armenia over the last three decades, notably since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Azerbaijani authorities have issued a NOTAM for the country’s airspace warning of shelling with “the use of long-range missiles” throughout its territory.

The NOTAM adds that a “threat arise for international flights” and that civil aircraft using the Baku flight information region – which covers Azerbaijan – are “strongly advised” to follow air traffic control instructions and be prepared for “possible deviations” from planned flightpaths.

Separate advisories have established restricted areas of airspace to the north of Nagorno-Karabakh, to “ensure the safety” of flights within the FIR, while a number of route segments from Armenia-Azerbaijan airspace boundary waypoints – including MATAL, ELSIV, PEMAN and VETEN – have been closed.

Armenian counterparts have warned aircraft to carry additional fuel in the event that routes or airspace are restricted, and to prepare for short-notice changes.

Despite the NOTAM measures the Interstate Aviation Committee is alarmed by the use of missiles and other weapons and the possible threat to international flights.

It is openly expressing “serious concern” as to whether the steps taken by air navigation services, including localised airspace restrictions, are sufficient.

The committee says that air navigation services should ensure co-ordination with military authorities on issuing appropriate NOTAMs and aeronautical publications to ensure safety.

It supports ICAO principles regarding the need to assess risks to civil aircraft operating over conflict zones, and says airlines flying through the southern Caucasus region should strictly monitor and comply with notifications.

Within the framework of ICAO, it adds, a permanent body of national representatives and international organisations should be established to respond promptly to emerging conflicts and monitor the implementation of ICAO recommendations and decisions on aircraft safety.