FAA expands area in eastern Europe, Russia where U.S. airlines cannot operate

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) -The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Thursday it was expanding the area in eastern Europe and Russia where U.S. airlines and U.S. pilots cannot operate following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. agency issued expanded notices barring operations that now cover all of Ukraine, Belarus and a western portion of Russia. Prior to the new restrictions, the FAA prohibited operations in an eastern region of Ukraine. The restrictions do not apply to military operations.

The new notices prohibit U.S. operations within 160 miles (258 km) of Russian airspace in three Russian flight information regions along the Ukrainian border.

Some U.S. long-haul flights from the United States to India and other destinations overfly Russian airspace, but it was not clear whether any of those routes may be affected.

The U.S. State Department, which negotiates Russian overflight rights for American air carriers, met earlier this month with U.S. airlines to discuss the potential impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine on U.S. overflight rights.

The Notice to Air Missions, or NOTAM, is an alert containing information essential to safe flight operations.

The FAA generally relies on an individual country’s civil aviation authority to issue NOTAMs, as Ukraine did last night. Ukraine has planned to reissue its NOTAM every six hours, but the FAA said that, "given the circumstances, the FAA is issuing its own."

(Reporting by David Shepardson in MiamiEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)