OTTAWA — A Russian flight that entered Canadian airspace just hours after a ban had been declared itself a “humanitarian flight” and was allowed to proceed, according to Nav Canada.
Aeroflot flight 111 departed Miami at 2:29 pm local time Sunday on its way to Moscow and appears to have flown over parts of New Brunswick, Quebec and Labrador, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware, despite the Canadian government announcing a ban on Russian aircraft entering Canadian airspace earlier that morning.
In a statement on Monday, Nav Canada, the non-profit company that runs Canada’s civil air navigation service, said the aircraft was allowed to proceed as it had declared itself a “humanitarian flight” and that air traffic controllers took the declaration at “face value” under the existing protocols.
“The pilot was informed the flight was not to enter Canadian airspace, according to the [Notice to Airmen],” Nav Canada wrote in a statement. “The pilot indicated he was aware of the NOTAM but declared the flight a humanitarian flight and would enter Canadian airspace.”
“Under normal circumstances, Nav Canada does not have the authority to deny airspace access to an airborne aircraft declaring itself a humanitarian flight, medical emergency/MEDEVAC or an emergency flight.”
Since the first flight breached the violation, two other Russian aircraft attempted to declare themselves humanitarian, but were told to travel around Canadian airspace.
“Nav Canada is working collaboratively with Transport Canada and has issued a directive to air traffic control units to ensure all processes are in place to deny identifiable Russian aircraft access to Canadian airspace, unless prior approval has been received by Transport Canada,” Nav Canada wrote in the statement.
Transport Canada is investigating both Aeroflot and Nav Canada concerning the incident.
“We are launching a review of the conduct of Aeroflot and the independent air navigation service provider, NAVCAN, leading up to this violation. We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations,” the agency wrote in Tweet late Sunday.
Valerie Glazer, a discuss spokesperson for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, told The Canadian Press that the minister had spoken with Nav Canada CEO Raymond Bohn on Monday to the breach.
Aeroflot typically operates several flights per day through Canadian airspace en route to destinations in the United States and elsewhere.
With files from The Canadian Press