View Full Version : Flying over not so friendly Countries

13th Oct 2006, 20:34
Just out of curiosity......

Do our western airlines currently fly over "Axis of Evil" countries as a matter of normal flight planning? For example, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Or is it a matter of boxing around the airspace as a part of planning? And if they do, what of the need to divert, get down in a hurry? Are agreements in place.

Also, for you history buffs, did western airlines fly over the former USSR? I know of a Korean airliner shot down by the Russians somewhere on the East Coast of Russia, many years ago. But did airlines regularly fly over the USSR as a matter of routine?

It's just a curiosity as I was recently listening to JFK delivery online, and there was a problem with a Northwest Airlines flight having a Russian Airspace Penetration time problem. Is this sort of thing co-ordinated with these Axis of evil countries also?

Anyone with any info or websites with stories etc would be great.


Jordan D
14th Oct 2006, 07:51
I do remember in 1991, on my first international flight, flying LGW-DXB-BOM on Emirates, on the first leg, we had to take a very interesting route to avoid flying anywhere near Iraq.


14th Oct 2006, 20:12
2 weeks ago I flew over Baghdad on a US airline.

Was bizarre looking down on Baghdad I have to say :O

14th Oct 2006, 20:33
Western airlines started flying over the USSR in the mid-80s. Iran has been a busy route for all airlines for many years. Diversion has never been a problem, except that the diverting aircraft may be guided to that state's preference, rather than the pilots' preference!
Early routeings over the USSR followed the railway lines, since that was an obvious source of electrical power for the mainly NDB navigation aids (VORs were few and far between) and communications were brief and deliberate - often a position report would be replied to in Russian and then immediately translated into English.Thankfully, time has meant progress in all areas!

15th Oct 2006, 10:18
From the onboard flight map it looks like Eva fly straight over Kabul and Afghanistan, I expect that :8 Thai, Qantas, British take a similar routing.

15th Oct 2006, 11:14
Western airlines - in my case BOAC - started flying over the USSR in the very early 1970's - LHR - SVO - HND, BEA were flying LHR-SVO much earlier!

15th Oct 2006, 15:18
Western airlines started flying scheduled trans-Siberia in the 1960s. The first was SAS flying DC-8s Copenhagen-Tashkent-Bangkok (remember all the now independent republics like Uzbekistan, where Tashkent is, were just part of the USSR).

And of course they had been flying into the Soviet Union for longer. Finnair were doing so by 1950, British Airways by about 1957 (when Aeroflot started to London as well). IIRC they started with Viscounts, stopping in Warsaw.

Did Lufthansa do Ju52s to Moscow in the 1930s ?

16th Oct 2006, 09:29
During "conflicts" eg Gulf War, there is normally an AIP issued to prohbit or advise against such terrirotial overflying. Yes,diverts/alternates need consideration but generally the high level/high alt flights overflying are safe.
On cargo/freighter flights the "nature of the cargo" or registry/tail of the aircraft will not permit over flying (potentially) hostile territory.

16th Oct 2006, 09:37
The trans-Siberian route to the Far East opened up at the end of the 1960s. It represented a huge saving in time and fuel over the Anchorage stop. For several years, there was an obligatory transit of Moscow and I believe that Russian navigators were taken on board to help guide the aircraft (basically to avoid it overflying sensitive areas). This gave rise to tripartite ‘competition’ on the main routes – BA, JAL and Aeroflot on London-Tokyo, AF, JAL and Aeroflot on Paris, etc.
Finnair was (I think) the first to fly nonstop Europe-Tokyo, over Siberia, and for a while enjoyed a nice niche in sixth-freedom traffic from the main European cities, via Helsinki. As the other airlines upgraded to better-equipped long-range aircraft, they pressed the Russians to be allowed to do the same. This of course threatened to leave Aeroflot at a huge commercial disadvantage since they didn’t have nonstop rights (and no capable aircraft in the unlikely event they would ever get nonstop rights) and had to operate via Moscow. Consequently Western airlines were obliged to pay ‘royalty payments’ to Aeroflot for the right not to make an intermediate call, in direct contravention of international air law.
This is still going on and currently costs the European airlines somewhere in the region of $300 million annually. Nobody knows where the money goes. The European Commission is currently negotiating with the Russians to get these charges (a) frozen, as demand for extra flights increases, (b) reduced and (c) eventually abolished, with 2014 as a target date. The Russians simply don't want to know.
As a PS to the above, there was a time, around 1973-4, when BA were investigating a Concorde service LON-TYO with a single stop. Range limitations meant that the stop had to be very close to the midpoint of the great circle between the two. So they stretched a string around a globe and checked their airfield charts to find somewhere about half way – the only candidate was a place callrd Norilsk. So next time they had a bilateral meeting with the Russians, they tabled a request for a London-Norilsk-Tokyo Concorde routing. The Russians looked at each other in amazement for a few seconds, then fell off their chairs laughing.
Another PS re overflying sensitive areas, there was a history of Cubana Havana-Montreal flights making unexplained diversions from their alotted airway over the US to pass over and presumably photograph military installations. When it happened several times in a short period (early 1980s??) the Americans either gave them fighter escort or withdrew their overflight clearance and made them go the long way round, I can’t remember which.

16th Oct 2006, 12:05
China borders Afghanistan which borders Iran which borders Iraq which borders Syria.

So you choose who you are least hostile towards at the moment, and overfly one or more of them, over the years the choice has changed on several occasions.

The only other real option when going from Europe to the Far East was to head South from the med over Egypt and Saudi then accross to India but that is a long way round, and may need a tech-stop somewhere to refuel.

17th Oct 2006, 09:00
In the 90s I was a regular commuter between Hong Kong/Singapore/various others in Asia to London.

The routings often changed according to the geopolitical situation down below. Once, Chinese ATC refused to give a CX flight I was on from Honkers permission to overfly. No reason given, they were just being bolshie.

Another place that caused trouble once was the FRY while Nato were bombing the shite out of the place. That was given a very wide berth!

17th Oct 2006, 13:50
Consequently Western airlines were obliged to pay ‘royalty payments’ to Aeroflot for the right not to make an intermediate call, in direct contravention of international air law.
This is still going on and currently costs the European airlines somewhere in the region of $300 million annually.
You can see a vestige of this in today's Aeroflot flights between Moscow and London. Most have flight numbers in the SU239-248 range. But two a week each way are numbered as SU581/2 (and the normal relationship between even/odd numbers and inbound/outbound flights is reversed). These are hangovers from the "Aeroflot London to Tokyo service" fiction, and allow Aeroflot to do two extra flights to London over and above the air service agreement between Britain and Russia. At the London end they appear in practice as nothing more than the other London to Moscow flights and use short-haul aircraft. The flight from Moscow to Tokyo on those days uses the same flight number, although operated by a 767, to maintain the story.

18th Oct 2006, 11:11
The trans-Siberian route to the Far East opened up at the end of the 1960s
SAS route Copenhagen-Tashkent-Bangkok opened 4 Nov 1967

See History - Milestones in http://www.sasflightops.com/