EASA is continuously working with the Member State aviation authorities and our wide range of industry partners to identify new or emerging safety issues. We have all seen the devastating humanitarian crisis of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and from an aviation perspective the situation creates new safety issues and exacerbates pre-existing ones. EASA has developed a safety risk portfolio that identifies 20 safety issues affecting commercial aviation stemming from or associated with this conflict.
Access the report online here - or download it at the bottom of the page.
How was the report created?
The report was created through surveying EASA’s safety partners in the national authorities and Industry. This exercise identified many useful candidate safety issues that were discussed further with EASA’s experts and also within the different Collaborative Analysis Groups (CAGs). The result of this work is the list of safety issues in the report.
What should you do with the report?
You should evaluate the list of safety issues and see how they might impact your own operations and activities. It may be that you have identified some of these issues already through your management of change activities in your SMS. Hopefully, this report will give you an insight into the potential challenges you may face within your operations due to the conflict. The main thing is to identify those safety issues that have an impact on your operations and then ensure that any associated risks can be mitigated effectively. EASA will continue to monitor the safety situation and will provide further updates to the report as needed. If you identify anything new that we might not have listed, please send your suggestions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The different categories of safety issues
Due to the specifics of the crisis, many safety issues are related to airspace management and air navigation service provision, such as airspace infringements by military drones. Other issues relate to security, such as cyber-attacks, with potential continuing airworthiness issues due to the sanctions. Human performance aspects such as skills and knowledge degradation also appear as the conflict follows on from problems created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list of identified safety issues is provided below and has been categorised under the following headings:
- Infrastructure and equipment
- Air traffic management and navigation service provision
- Human performance
- Management systems
- Energy crisis impact
- Health and environment
As you can see from the full report, many of the safety issues are ATM related. From an air operations perspective, there is not so much that you are able to do to mitigate these risks within your organisation. At the level of the wider aviation system, this is the role of the ANSP whose airspace you are flying through. It will be useful to at least ensure that your crews are aware of these ATM related safety issues so that they know at what point during the flight that they should be especially vigilant.
Specific Air Ops related safety issues
We will leave you to read and digest the full report but there are some points in this article that we would like to specifically draw your attention, which will certainly be of interest from an air ops perspective.
Separation with unidentified aircraft:
Between Finnish and Estonian territorial waters there is a narrow corridor of neutral waters providing Russia with access to the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad. Unidentified aircraft using these routes can conflict with other traffic, rendering it important that they are using their transponders, have filed flight plans, and communicate with air traffic control (ATC). Such flights over neutral waters have increased significantly, increasing ATC workload, and imposing an effect on the flight profiles of civilian aircraft. From you perspective, it is important to be aware of the increased possibility of encountering unidentified aircraft in this area of Europe so that crews can be aware.
GPS signal manipulation leading to navigation or surveillance degradation:
Due to military use of electronic warfare systems, the GPS signal may be disturbed in countries adjacent to the conflict zones and affect the operation of aircraft en-route, during approach and departure and/or while operating at airports. The GPS interference may be only temporary, and pilots should be aware of this risk and the contingency procedures for loss of GNSS should be included in flight planning.
Flight route congestion (hotspots) and Non-standard operational air traffic routings, reservation of military areas outside the conflict zone:
The regional response to the war in Ukraine may result in all EU and associated MS experiencing an increase in unexpected military exercises, and unexpected ‘due regard’ flights (movement of military aircraft from one air base to another). This could increase risks to commercial operations in certain areas and may lead to the need for rerouting at short notice, for example. If you are flying in/ through countries around Ukraine it is worth considering how sudden changes might impact your fuel planning and flight time limitations calculations.
Skills and knowledge degradation due to lack of recent practice:
The downturn in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been prolonged by the war in Ukraine. The continuing downturn of demand can be explained in part increased prices for flights (increased fuel prices in combination with longer routes causing the overall cost of flights to rise). The documented COVID-19 effect of being away from the operational environment for long periods of time causes skills and knowledge to degrade, especially so for more complex tasks. This also means that personnel returning from furlough are doing so with a more complex operating environment will need additional training and support. Think specifically about how any new or returning staff might be further challenged by the additional pressures associated with the war in Ukraine.
Crew fatigue caused by longer routes due to the need to avoid Russian airspace and conflict zones:
The longer routes caused by the need to avoid Russian airspace and the conflict zone may lead to crew fatigue, for both pilots and cabin crew. Fatigue risks associated with extended duty times should be identified and addressed via organisations’ management systems, including FRMS where applicable.
Intermediate destination stops increasing exposure to risk:
Intermediate destination stops increase exposure to risk due to a possible unfamiliarity with the approach to some airports and other procedures at those aerodromes. Take-off and landing are critical phases of flight, therefore additional take offs and landings add to existing flight-safety risks.
Less commonly known diversions:
The need to use new routes (or to reinstate routes not used for some decades) will mean that the diversions and alternates are less well known to crews. The more you can prepare your crews for any new diversion airports the better.