According to a new report by a respected international research group, armed groups in Syria have an estimated several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes. After knowing this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned the U.S. airlines from flying over Syria.
The conflict in Syria between the government and rebel forces has been going on for years and extremists have shot down many commercial planes via missiles. However, since the Malaysia Airlines tragedy on July 17, FAA has become more cautious. The agency said that armed extremists in Syria are “known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft.” FAA had previously warned against flights over Syria, but had not prohibited them. But last Monday, the agency sent a Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) ordering not to fly planes over Damascus Flight Information Region, which includes all of Syria. The notice reads:
Due to the presence of anti-aircraft weapons among the extremist groups and ongoing fighting in various locations throughout Syria, there is a continuing significant potential threat to civil aviation operating in Syrian airspace. Based on an updated assessment of the risk associated with such operations and the lack of any requests from operators wishing to fly in this airspace, we believe it prudent to prohibit U.S. operators from flying into, out of, and over Syria.
According to the FAA, rebel groups have “shot down Syrian military aircraft.” So, if a U.S plane is in the air and it needs to fly over Syria, then it first needs to take permission of FAA before flying over that area.