November 2001





SARAJEVO: On 21 January 2000, civil aviation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took a giant leap forward with the decision by COMSFOR to return upper airspace control to the civilian authorities. This allows commercial flights to operate between 29,000 and 39,000 feet and means that income can now be generated from over-flight fees. On 14 February, in a related development, SFOR began training 9 civilian air traffic controllers as part of the process of returning Sarajevo Airport to full civilian operation. In July 2000 SHAPE gave approval for COMSFOR to lift enforcement of the air embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia established in spring 1999 as a result of Operation Allied Guard.

Airspace control

Upper airspace had been under SFOR control since the end of the NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1999. Commercial airliners had been excluded from over-flying BiH since March of that year for security reasons.
After carefully reviewing security factors and other implications, COMSFOR in full coordination with NATO, the Office of the High representative and BiH aviation authorities, returned control of Flight Levels (FL) 290 to 390 to BiH effective 27 January. Under the Dayton Peace Accord, COMSFOR retains the authority to regain control of the airspace for operational reasons, should the situation ever demand it.

The implications

This confidence-building measure is good news for both airline passengers and the citizens of BiH, saving passengers time and money and generating income for BiH. The decision means that income may now be generated from over-flight fees, but this is not yet effective; these much-needed funds could be used to improve the civil aviation structure.
Effective control of the airspace is carried out with services provided by Croatia Control Ltd, Zagreb, and the Federal Air Traffic Control Authority Belgrade. Income received must be shared with the aviation authorities of these countries, because these essential services are provided without any base cost to BiH.
A decision as to whether to purchase its own air traffic control system or to integrate into a regional system is to be decided by the BiH Government in the near future.

Training for civil control

SFOR has developed an On-the-Job Training programme for 9 civilian air traffic controllers in Sarajevo Airport, to prepare them for assuming civilian control of the newly rebuilt air traffic control tower. An initial training programme in ground control, tower control and flight data began in February 2000 and will continue until they are licensed.
A further step towards normalization of BiH Air Space came in July 2000 when the European Union lifted its air embargo of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. SFOR supported this action and COMAIRSOUTH took on responsibility for authorizing civilian flights to and from FRY, which originate in, or use, BiH airspace. Moreover, in COMSFOR supported BiH authorities by allowing limited over-flights at FL100 to FL160.

Bottom line

BiH now has control of the important commercial FL290 to FL390 and, to a lesser extent, FL100 to FL160. The Country now has the opportunity to obtain funds through over-flight revenues and use these funds to modernize its civil aviation system and structures. It is an opportunity to take ownership of another of the challenges on the road to peace and long term prosperity.