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Directing Traffic

RSAF and UNHAS cooperation in Yemen humanitarian aid flights.

Officials from the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which is responsible for humanitarian aviation provision across the UN, have shared with MONS how Air Traffic Control/Management (ATC/M) services are provided for its aircraft assisting the aid effort to alleviate suffering caused by the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

With a fleet largely consisting of chartered aircraft, UNHAS officials speaking to MONS during the Singapore Air Show held in the city between 5th and 9th February, disclosed that the UNHAS regularly liaises with the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) which is responsible for providing ATC/M services above Yemen. The Saudi Arabian armed forces are leading a coalition of largely Sunni Muslim Arab nations against Shiite Houthi rebels who are participating in the country’s ongoing conflict.

During the civil war, the UNHAS has performed airdrops of humanitarian aid on behalf of the UN’s World Food Programme. The officials stated that this has necessitated the RSAF providing safe corridors into and out of Yemeni airspace, and safe areas of airspace from which the airdrops can be performed. The RSAF ensure that their own aircrews, other coalition pilots, civilian aviation and coalition troops on the ground are aware that the UNHAS aircraft are on innocent passage and must not be attacked. UNHAS officials stated that they had experienced a good level of cooperation with the RSAF to this end since the Saudi intervention in the conflict commenced in 2009.

Thomas Withington


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