Thursday, February 24, 2022

Russia invasion: Why Ukraine closed its airspace, what it means for Air India evacuation flights

Citing a “potential hazard to civil aviation”, Ukraine issued a NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) around 7.30 am IST restricting all civilian flights to the region. An Air India flight, meant to evacuate Indian citizens from Kyiv, left from Delhi a few minutes after the NOTAM was issued, but will return in light of the restrictions. At 10.30 am IST, the flight was in Iranian airspace.

The NOTAM — a notice to pilots, ATC personnel and airline operations teams about the condition of a particular airspace — was issued on

account of the rising tensions given the build up of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border. While the tensions began a few weeks ago, Ukraine

kept its airspace open for civilian flights allowing non-essential foreigners, including Indian students, families of embassy staff to fly out of the country.

Air India is operating the second of its three planned evacuation flights to Kyiv to fly out stranded Indian citizens from there.

According to flight tracking portal Flightradar24, as of 9.50 am IST, Air India’s was one of only three flights en route Kyiv Boryspil Airport. One of the other flights — Ukraine International Airlines — from Baku, diverted to an airport in Moldova, which shares its northern border with Ukraine.

While the airline hasn’t officially announced the cancellation, the restriction may result in the third flight on Saturday not operating. Even though the Ukrainian NOTAM has been made effective only till 5.30am Friday IST, it could get extended given the escalating tensions.

24/02/22 Pranav Mukul/Indian Express

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