Air Traffic Control Services Return To Somalia After 30 Years

Air Traffic Control Services Return To Somalia After 30 Years Photo supplied by Simple Flying

Simple Flying
By Linnea Ahlgren

If it was not acutely felt before, the events over the past year have shown just how volatile a nation’s aviation industry and air connectivity are when there is armed conflict in the region. Somalia and neighboring areas on the Horn of Africa have been in a near continual state of conflict since the 1970s. And when Somalia fell into civil war in 1991, the state-owned carrier Somali Airlines, fell along with the government.

Other states long issued NOTAM warnings to airlines about the dangers of operating in Somali airspace at flight levels below 26,000 feet, and the only major international carrier serving Somalia currently is Turkish Airlines. Meanwhile, with an upgrade to infrastructure and the reinstallment of air traffic control, the Mogadishu airspace has now been re-classified to Class A.

The re-classification came into effect one minute past midnight on Thursday, January 26, 2023. This coincides with the reinstating of air traffic control across the Mogadishu Flight Information Region (FIR) following 30 years of disruption.

IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, Kamil Al-Awadhi, commented on the landmark certification.

“The reclassification of the Mogadishu FIR as ‘Class A’ airspace will significantly improve safety in the region and enhance efficiency. This is thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Somalia Airspace Special Coordination Team, comprising the Somali CAA, IATA, the International Civil Aviation Organization, adjacent FIRs and airlines.”

Enhancing situational awareness across busy corridor

IATA further stated that the reinstating of air traffic control across the Mogadishu FIR had been made possible due to the installation and commissioning of modern radio navigation and other technological infrastructure following a pilot project conducted in May 2022. Al-Ahwadi shared the additional comments,

“The upgrade of air traffic management and improved navigation and communication infrastructure will enhance situational awareness along an increasingly busy air corridor and its intersections with routes linking many of the world’s regions.”

In the Mogadishu FIR, IATA says that Class A airspace is the sky above the base altitude of approximately 24,500 feet above mean sea level. All flights operating in Class A airspace must be cleared by ATC, which is also responsible for maintaining lateral and vertical separation between aircraft.

The airspace houses some of the region’s busiest airways, linking the Indian subcontinent both to Western Europe and Africa and the Middle East to the African subcontinent.

Somalia air connectivity

As previously mentioned, the former flag carrier, Somali Airlines, which commenced operations in July 1964, ceased to be in 1991. During the two decades of civil war that followed, some 15 private carriers rose up to cover demand, although infrastructure maintenance and safety suffered. Meanwhile, following the official end to the civil war and the establishment of the Federal Government in 2012, the Somaliland Aviation and Airports Council was established.

Aviation is critical to transportation in an area where road infrastructure is severely lacking. However, despite safety records improving over the past years, the market is dominated by international operators.

Aden Adde International Airport (MGQ), formerly known as Mogadishu International Airport, is one of the most expensive airports in the region for airline operations. According to the Somalia Investor, carriers pay three times the amount for a Fokker 50 flight from MGQ ($1,200) compared to operating the same aircraft in Kenya ($400), which is believed to hinder the potential growth of air connectivity.