FAA monitoring Middle East situation for safety risks

missile launching from warship

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Monday, Jan. 6 that it is closely monitoring events in the Middle East “to identify potential risks to civil aviation safety.” FAA’s statement comes in the wake of a U.S. drone attack early Jan. 3 in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“We continue to coordinate with our national security partners and share information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities,” the agency said. “The FAA will take actions as necessary to ensure the safety of U.S. civil aviation operations worldwide.”

News of the attack sent U.S. airline stock prices tumbling 1-3% in trading Jan. 3. The stock prices of several of the largest U.S. carriers were down again Monday, but the range of declines was more modest.

FAA’s Threat Analysis Division said in an information note released Jan. 3 that “while there are no indications of an intent to target civil aviation, there is an increasing inadvertent risk to civil aviation in the region, particularly if kinetic attack operations occur.”

In the days since the attack, Jordanian flag carrier Royal Jordanian and Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, have suspended service to Baghdad because of safety and security concerns. Gulf Air also has suspended service to Najaf, Iraq, until further notice.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been building for months. In September, FAA warned U.S. operators to exercise caution when operating into, out of, within or over what is known as the Tehran flight information region, which is largely comprised of the airspace over Iran and adjacent areas. In June, after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, FAA banned U.S.-registered aircraft from flying over the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman. Both of those bodies of water are within the Tehran flight information region.