Kabul Airport reopened to civil aircraft to a limited extent

After series of incidents preceded by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport has now been opened to civilian air traffic operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and military traffic.

Amid thousands of people desperate to flee the country, Kabul airport is secure and open to commercial traffic as per the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

Kabul Airport Getty Image

On August 17, Notification to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued stating that any aircraft should receive prior permission from NATO’s ISAF force before landing at the airport. The Air operators must complete so within 30 minutes of PPR approval, or else they won’t be valid and need to file a new request. The aircraft is not permitted to land without PPR except in the case of an emergency.

Flight operations at Kabul Airport were halted on Monday after chaotic scenes unfolded at the airport, leaving several people dead. Then Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority suspended commercial flights. However, on Tuesday, the Afghanis crowd has thinned down at the airport, with most of them returning, and the runway was clear of the crowds, letting the continuation of evacuation flights.

The air operations are now open to a limited extent, as a VFR flight at its own risk. Additionally, the plane must land with enough fuel to complete its departure as no aeronautical services are available given the circumstances; the procedure is known as tankering. IFR flights are not launched currently due to the non-availability of ATCs.

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The airport reopened after the troops rescued the civilian side of the airport, while the military flights of several countries were already using the airport for the repatriation of their citizens. While the strongest nations like the US, UK, Italy, and France have been busy evacuating the citizens, other countries like India and Indonesia waited for improvement in security situations around the airfield to rescue their interests.

The passenger plane of Russia, arriving from Vnukovo International Airport in Afghan airspace, indicated the airport’s reopening. Utair Boeing 767, registered as VP-BAG, landed at the Kabul airport at 16:18 on Wednesday, making it the first civilian aircraft to arrive at the airport since its reopening.

On Monday, thousands of Afghans invaded the airport to escape the country after the Taliban claimed to control it; Afghani president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the citizens at the mercy of the Taliban. The horrific scenes at Kabul airport showed the crowds storming the runway and clinging to the departing US evacuation aircraft. At the same time, some media have reported the death of seven people in airport chaos in one day, with five dead in one incident. Such haunting scenes prompted US authorities, who took control of air traffic, to suspend the evacuation flights, cutting off one of the only ways for people in the country to escape the Taliban, who had encircled Afghanistan.

US Military planes resumed the flights into Kabul airport while they took charge of the airport, as the airport was closed for the civilian side to prevent looting and plundering as per Kabul Authority. On Tuesday, a day after the shocking scenes showcasing the crowd scrambling to fly out of the country by clinging to the plane, the evacuation process restarted smoothly; US and Western Allies worked to airlift their citizens and Afghan staff.

The American Military ATC and ground handlers were reported to rapidly sorting out the flight operations for the smooth evacuation of civilians and diplomats.

Fall of Afghanistan

The fall of Afghanistan’s military and government to the Taliban came at the end of a nearly 20-year war that started in October 2001. The militant group claimed their dominance in the country as soon as US-led forces withdrew and departed. After the quick seizure of Kabul on August 15, the Taliban declared the end of the war and wants peaceful relations with other countries while honoring women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law.

As Taliban fighters entered the city, hundreds of Afghans fled the country, and thousands of people thronged the southern terminal on the civilian side of the airport to flee the country.

Hamid Karzai International Airport is one of the largest military bases in Afghanistan and launching commercial operations. Today, many British residents, nationals, and Europeans among the crowd are waiting for turns in a desperate attempt to be rescued inside the airport gates. It’s a difficult task for respective governments to take evacuees to the suitable base and protect them.

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