Is Libya safe to fly to?
First, is there a need to?
Libya is quite a big airspace, sat between Algeria and Tunisia, and Egypt.
For traffic flying east/west, avoiding the airspace requires a detour north via Malta, Cyprus etc. Routing further south is possible, but would require a longer detour, and Chad, Niger and Sudan all offer relatively limited diversion options and safety and security issues themselves.
Traffic flying between central and eastern Europe and Southern Africa would not see much benefit as the Central African region is relatively challenging to fly through.
So overflying Libyan airspace would help reduce route length and time and offer a good connection between the west of Africa, and Southern Europe, with the Middle and Far East. Additionally, overflight costs through Europe can be pricy, and airspace there is rather more congested.
Who thinks it is ok?
In March 2023, the FAA decided that in certain regions it might be safe. These regions were areas outside the ‘territory and airspace’ – in other words over the water, and in a small portion of Chad which borders Libya. A retraction of FL300 of above remained in place.
SFAR 112 is valid until March 20th, 2025 and while it removes the prohibition, it also reminds folk that the situation is extremely volatile and ‘fluid’, and that changes could come in at any point should tensions rise and threat levels against US aircraft or people increase again.
NEWSTALKER: Italy have recently announced the they are lifting their ban on flights between their country and Libya based on updated news regarding standards of safety procedures at Libyan airports (Source: Reuters).
Notams A5403/23 (LIBB/LIMM/LIRR) was issued on the 27/7/2023 and states that ‘Specific provisions regarding traffic to/from Lybia are withdrawn ref AIP ENR 1.1.9’
ENAV, Italian security services and other organisations have been working to help modernise airport infrastructure and ATS at both major airports (Source: FlightGlobal). Eurocontrol still ban Libyan aircraft from entering (all other) EU airspace.
Malta do allow aircraft departing Malta to enter the FIR but only if landing in Libya. It requires a specific permit from their CAA (Notam A1317/23).
firstname.lastname@example.org is the email contact for the Maltese airspace/aviation folk and worth getting in touch with them for more info if planning on flying into Libya.
Who thinks it isn’t ok?
A lot of others.
- France have a no penetration of the HLLL/Tripoli FIR ‘request’ for their operators
- Germany have a ‘recommendation’ of not entering for theirs
- Canada also recommend against entry (in an AIC issued recently in May 2023).
- The UK prohibit entry for any UK registered aircraft who fall under the Aviation Security Act of 1982. If you don’t think that applies to you, you can talk to the DfT though.
- Greece do not allow any aircraft departing Libya to land or overfly in Greece. This would likely include at least some issues if you diverted in on an emergency as it would raise some security concerns for them (Notam A2152/23).
- Morocco also say no (Notam A0231/21).
- ICAO have some words to share on it too. They issued a letter back in 2015 which you can read here via the FAA website. This is still visible despite the change from the FAA.
Why do they think it isn’t safe?
Anti aircraft weaponry is the big concern, closely followed by the chances of misidentification by their air defence systems.
Weaponised drones are fairly common in the airspace, as are military aircraft and airstrikes against airports – HLLM/Mitiga international airport.
Militia are active in the country and there have been multiple attacks against airports. HLLT/Tripoli was closed in 2014 following an attack which caused significant damage and there is an ongoing risk of attacks against infrastructure and damage to it.
Safety and security on the ground would be a major concern.
The situation in Libya is a long term one, and sites such as ACLED DATA have not reported on to specifically since 2020. While a new ‘interim’ government was discussed in 2023 and reports suggest Islamic State and Al-Qaeda no longer control any territory in Libya, they remain present and capable and the situation is volatile.
Accessing timely and credible information regarding the situation is challenging.
Libya also has ongoing conflict and tensions with neighbouring countries.
So can I fly there?
This is dependant first and foremost on whether you state of registry has prohibitions, or warnings in place, and whether a thorough risk assessment has been carried out.
Considerations following this would include:
- There are not many airways north of Libya, through the “oceanic” area. You will likely be routing in the LMMM/Malta FIR anyway if it just an overflight you are looking for.
- Aircraft from Turkey and some other countries do operate into HLLM/Tripoli (Mitiga) and HLLB/Benghazi (Benina) so there is a level of infrastructure there which could support you if you have to head during an emergency.
- However, it should be considered what political links these countries have with Libya, and how they might impact their safety risk assessment
- HLLM/MJI offers a runway which is a good 3400m in length, but only has VOR DME approaches (both with steeper than 3 degree approaches and a few other challenges to think about).
- HLLB/BEN has parallel 3600m runways, with ILS approaches to some and is a bigger and possibly better international airport to consider as a diversion option if overflights are being considered.
- There have been questions raised over the ATS standards and availability in the airspace, and coordination between the Triploi and Benghazi ACCs.
- There have been many strikes there, with a recent one was planned for May 2023 but postponed due union talks
- One of the demands is that they are separated from the ATC department of the Libyan CAA which hints of a lack of cohesion in the country’s aviation industry.
- A search of current notams from Libya brings up… zero.
So, if your state says so then you could, but whether you should is an entirely different question. Utilising a Risk Management and Safety Guidance provider such as Dyami, Osprey Flight Solutions or Medaire would be strongly recommended.
EASA CZIBs – contain the most up to date regulations from States regarding Libyan airspace operations
Crisis 24 – Provide risk management and reports/alerts on countries and events as they occur. They currently rank Libya as ‘Critical’.