ICAO upgrades Somalia airspace to Class A after 30 years

Wednesday February 01 2023
A plane flies from the Aden Abdulle International Airport in Somalia.

A plane flies from the Aden Abdulle International Airport in Somalia. PHOTO | AU-UN IST PHOTO | STUART PRICE | AFP


The aviation community has welcomed the restoration of air traffic control services over Somalia.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the reclassification of Mogadishu Flight Information Region to Class A airspace, will improve safety through improved situational awareness for pilots flying through the country’s upper airspace.

Coming 30 years since radio navigation went silent over Somalia, the development follows the installation of new navigation and other aeronautical infrastructure. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), officially restored Class A air traffic control services over Somalia on January 26.

Until now, pilots flying over Somali airspace depended on the IATA in-flight broadcast procedure where they announce — on a dedicated radio frequency — their aircraft's position, altitude, heading and speed. It is then up to any airborne pilots of other aircraft to be tuned to the same frequency and listen out for such broadcasts.

There has been no one on the ground to coordinate the traffic and assign aircraft to flight levels or warn pilots if their aircraft were converging or in too close proximity to each other.

Busy air corridor


The IATA in-flight broadcast procedure is implemented in areas where air traffic control becomes unavailable.

“Air traffic control means there is someone with the full spatial picture who can guide the passage of aircraft through the airspace in a safe and coordinated manner,” an expert told The EastAfrican.

According to IATA, Somalia hosts some of the region’s busiest airways that link the African subcontinent south of Ethiopia with the Middle East and Indian subcontinent as well as Western Europe with the Indian subcontinent and Indian Ocean islands. All these cut across Somalian airspace, which is officially known as the Mogadishu Flight Information Region (FIR).

Enhance situational awareness

“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,” said IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, Kamil Al-Awadhi.

The reclassification of the airspace and operational resumption of air traffic control in the Mogadishu FIR comes after successful trials that began in May 2022.

All flights operating in Class A airspace must be cleared by air traffic control which is also responsible for maintaining lateral and vertical separation between aircraft.