Transport Canada announced on Sunday that the country was closing its airspace to all aircraft owned, operated, or chartered by Russia, effective immediately. The move was a response to Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine.
Just hours after the ban was put in place, Aeroflot flight AFL111, a Russian-owned and operated aircraft, departed Miami International Airport and entered Canadian airspace.
Amid rising tensions between Moscow and Ottawa over diplomatic protections and possible Russian retaliation, Canadians wondered how the incident was allowed to happen.
The entry of commercial flight AFL 111 was no accident or miscommunication but a case of following protocol.
On Monday night, NAV CANADA, which owns and operates the country’s civil air navigation system, issued a statement confirming that the pilot of AFL 111 was informed about the ban via a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). All pilots are required to comply with NOTAMS.
On February 27, following Transport Canada’s prohibition on Russian flights, an aircraft from the Russian airline Aeroflot entered Canadian airspace.
Read our statement on this event here: https://t.co/oer9BkZaA9
— NAV CANADA (@navcanada) February 28, 2022
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“All aircraft owned, chartered, operated, or otherwise controlled by a person connected with Russia, or which is registered in Russia, and all operators holding an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) issued by the Russian Federation authorities are prohibited to enter, exit, or overfly Canada’s airspace,” the NOTAM read.
The pilot of AFL 111 admitted he was aware of the notification but “declared the flight a humanitarian flight and would enter Canadian airspace.”
Typically, NAV CANADA does not have the authority to deny airspace access to an airborne aircraft that has declared itself a medical emergency or humanitarian flight.
“NAV CANADA’s air traffic controllers, therefore, operated under existing protocols to accept the humanitarian flight declaration at face value and permit passage in accordance with international civil aviation protocols,” the air traffic control agency said in a statement. “It’s [a] priority at that point is to ensure the safety of all aircraft in the region and ensure proper separation of all aircraft until the flight in question leaves the airspace, which was done.”
NAV CANADA also revealed that two Russian aircrafts flying out of US airports attempted to declare themselves “humanitarian” to fly over Canada; however, the flights were “ordered around Canadian airspace by neighbouring air navigation service providers.”
“NAV CANADA has taken steps to work with all other adjacent air navigation system providers to ensure Russian aircraft are rerouted around Canadian airspace,” they assured.
According to Transport Canada, NAV CANADA must direct the aircraft to land at the closest and most suitable airport and notify the regulator if an emergency is declared.