Is Europe’s Aviation Watchdog About to Effectively Isolate Half of Ukraine?

Kharkiv International Airport (Source: hrk.aero)

On September 20, The Kharkiv City Council sent an appeal, addressed to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman, regarding concerns over recent actions by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Specifically, the appeal cites a draft bulletin allegedly sent by the EASA to the Ukrainian State Aviation Service (SAS), proposing restrictions upon international aviation in eastern Ukraine (City.kharkov.ua, September 20). Neither the EASA nor the SAS have released the document in question into the public domain. Though the SAS confirmed receipt of the EASA document, the Ukrainian agency has stated only that it will liaise with the Ukrainian government to adopt an official position (Avianews.com, September 20). To date, the aforementioned appeal by the Kharkiv City Council against the adoption of the EASA proposal is the sole official notification and documentation by a government body that exists in the public domain.

According to the Kharkiv City Council’s appeal, it appears that the EASA intends to restrict flights that fall within the Dnipro Air Traffic Control zone. Since the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and the murder of all on board in mid-2014, the air space over the territories of the temporarily occupied Donbas and the area of military engagement remains closed. But if the proposed EASA restrictions on the airspace controlled by Dnipro Air Traffic Control become a reality, that would effectively block civilian air traffic over half of Ukraine—almost all airspace east of the Dnipro river in fact. Thus, in adopting such a proposal, the European aviation watchdog would effectively isolate the major Ukrainian cities and transport hubs of Dnipro, Zaporozhye and Kharkiv from civilian air travel.

This would not be the first time these airports have been cut off. In 2014, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) requested restrictions for a period of two weeks. And the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) banned all flights to Crimea and Dnipro since 2014 as well. That ban lapses on October 27, 2018, unless it is renewed (Federalregister.gov, July 22, 2016).

Clearly, the proposed restrictions to be placed on the airspace controlled by Dnipro Air Traffic Control would have a negative effect upon Dnipro, Zaporozhye and Kharkiv. These major urban centers would face damaging consequences to local business, foreign investment attractiveness, employment at the airports and…

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