Ukraine’s national airspace was rapidly closed down overnight in response to the Russian invasion of its neighbor in a move that has been anticipated for more than a week by aircraft operators. Early on Thursday, EASA issued an urgent bulletin covering the flight information regions (FIRs) around the cities and districts of Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk, Simferopol, and Odesa.
The agency warned operators to immediately adhere to all airspace closures and warnings, including a notam issued by Russian officials closing part of the southern Rostov FIR, close to the border between the countries. It advised that, as a further safety precaution, pilots should also avoid using any airspace within 100 nm of Ukraine’s border with both Russia and its close ally, Belarus, which has closed part of its national airspace along with Moldova, which borders Ukraine on its southwest side.
The European Business Aviation Association said that based on information received from both EASA and Eurocontrol, aircraft operators should consider the region as an active conflict zone until further notice. “Under these circumstances, the aforementioned airspace and critical infrastructure, including airports, are exposed to military activities which result in safety risks for civil aircraft,” said the industry group. “In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft. The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems pose a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.”
Until confirmation of the Russian military assault on Ukraine was confirmed in the early hours of Thursday, airlines have largely been taking their own decisions as to when to suspend operations, in some cases prompted by insurers or leasing groups. The fast-changing situation appears to have once again revealed the lack of coordinated multilateral guidance for operators.
Hours before the Russian invasion, the SafeAirspace conflict zone and risk database run by the OpsGroup network of flight operations professionals categorized the whole of Ukrainian airspace as “Level 1–Do Not Fly.” It referred to February 23 reports of Russian military aircraft probing Ukrainian air defense systems.
Beyond immediate operational concerns, the aviation and aerospace industries will now be awaiting further announcements about sanctions with acute interest. It remains to be seen whether sales of aircraft parts and systems to Russia could be banned, and what the country’s diplomatic isolation might mean for exports of key materials such as titanium.