FAA responds to US carriers’ exemption requests for Middle East ops

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responded Jan. 10 to several U.S.-based air cargo and express carriers requesting exemption from the FAA’s initial Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) banning U.S. carriers from flying in certain Middle East regions last week. In its response, the FAA included the issuance of a new NOTAM superseding the original and containing an exception decision for certain Middle East operations. As a result, Kalitta Air and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings’ subsidiary carriers withdrew their requests for exemption, though FedEx has not.

Although the FAA’s new NOTAM continues to prohibit all flight operations in the overwater space above the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, except with exemption, it also now provides exceptions to the original NOTAM in which permit operations may be conducted into and out of the Bahrain, Emirates and Muscat Flight Information Regions (FIRs).

Under the exception, operations into specific airports, including Bahrain (BAH), Doha (DOH), Abu Dhabi (AUH), Dubai (DXB), Sharjah (SHJ) and Muscat (MCT) are subject to specific conditions, including that “operators must be on a published instrument procedure or under the direction of traffic control, minimize overwater operations to the maximum extent possible and are prohibited from entering the Tehran FIR. For operations in the Muscat FIR flight operations may be conducted overwater south of M628.”

“For flights conducted under a contract or subcontract, grant, or cooperative agreement with a department, agency, or instrumentality of the U.S. Government, the sponsoring U.S. Government department, agency, or instrumentality must submit a request for approval to the FAA,” the FAA stated. Carriers were then advised to contact their sponsoring U.S. government department, agency or instrumentality to determine whether they intend to submit an approval request for specific flight operations on the carriers’ behalf.

Carriers, including Kalitta Air and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings’ subsidiary carriers, had outlined in their original requests their need to execute flights on behalf of U.S. government military entities. Meanwhile, FedEx’s initial request contained little wording related to security operational necessity, but said the nature of its filing was “sensitive” and requested its protection from public disclosure.

Following the FAA’s response, Kalitta Air and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings’ subsidiary carriers withdrew their original requests on Jan. 13. FedEx did not.

It is not yet clear whether these companies will pursue further procedures to seek relief for their operations as outlined by the FAA in the current NOTAM.

Many carriers based outside the U.S. also continue to divert flights around the region, and there appears to have been a Jan. 8 missile attack on a 737 passenger jet in the region. Air Cargo World will continue reporting on the region as the situation develops.

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