Oops: Belavia’s 2.5 Hour Flight From Minsk To Nowhere

Oops: Belavia’s 2.5 Hour Flight From Minsk To Nowhere

15

I feel bad for the passengers and crew, but otherwise this seems well deserved?

Belavia’s flight to Barcelona didn’t go as planned

Belavia is the government owned airline of Belarus. Yesterday (May 26, 2021), Belavia flight B2869 was supposed to operate from Minsk (MSQ) to Barcelona (BCN) with 54 people onboard. The scheduled ~1,480 mile flight was operated by an Embraer E195LR, though it didn’t operate as intended.

As you can see on Flightradar24, instead of flying to Barcelona, the plane landed back where it started. Over the course of the 2hr28min flight, the plane initially departed with the path you’d expect, but then as the flight approached the border of Poland, it entered a holding pattern. Best I can tell, the plane circled at least nine times, before eventually making a straight approach back to Minsk.

The flight path for a Belavia’s flight to nowhere

So, what happened?

We’ve seen European countries start to restrict their airspace to Belavia, given that it’s owned by the government that essentially hijacked a commercial airliner flying between two other countries.

If these restrictions are put in place you’d think a plane just wouldn’t take off, so what went wrong here? According to reports:

  • French aviation authorities revoked Belavia’s permit just minutes before the flight took off
  • However, the pilots weren’t made aware of this revoked authority until after takeoff, as they were informed of this by Polish air traffic controllers
  • At that point the plane held to determine its next steps; I’m surprised the plane spent so much time circling, since you’d assume that the decision would be made pretty quickly to turn around

What’s bizarre to me about this is that two days ago the European Union agreed to ban Belarusian airlines, including preventing them from landing in the European Union, and also preventing them from using the airspace.

While that new policy wasn’t instituted immediately by all countries, it’s still surprising to me that Belavia would take the risk, given that the plane could potentially be stuck in another country. Did Belavia not take the European Union seriously, or…?

Belavia has now canceled flights to the European Union all the way through the end of October, so clearly it’s expected that this won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Belavia has canceled all European Union flights in the coming months

Bottom line

Yesterday Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, operated a roughly 2.5 hour flight to nowhere. The flight was supposed to operate to Spain, but France closed its airspace to Belavia just minutes before the plane took off. Apparently the pilots weren’t made aware of this until they were about to enter Polish airspace, at which point they entered a holding pattern.

If only Belarusian air traffic control were as diligent about warning of closed airspace as it is about passing on imaginary bomb threats (in fairness, I recognize this these decisions were made at higher levels)…

(Tip of the hat to Josh)

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  1. Mh

    "If only Belarusian air traffic control were as diligent about warning of closed airspace as it is about passing on imaginary bomb threats (in fairness, I recognize this these decisions were made at higher levels)…"

    Haha :-)

  2. snic

    @Aaron: "Looks like someone didn’t pay attention in dictator school!"

    On the contrary, Lukachenko has been paying a LOT of attention in Putin's School of Dictatorship. Lukachenko has observed Putin literally get away with murder outside of Russia's borders for years. The repercussions to Putin have been practically nonexistent. Why should Lukachenko expect anything different?

  3. CRAIG

    In the larger scope of things it depends on how Russia responds. Since Belarus is essentially a vassal state of Russia the West's response will be largely dictated by how much they are willing to push Comrade Putin. Russia is non popular in the EU (despite buying a lot of natural gas from them) even in Poland with their storied history so it is unlikely you will hear about a lot of dissention. As far...

    In the larger scope of things it depends on how Russia responds. Since Belarus is essentially a vassal state of Russia the West's response will be largely dictated by how much they are willing to push Comrade Putin. Russia is non popular in the EU (despite buying a lot of natural gas from them) even in Poland with their storied history so it is unlikely you will hear about a lot of dissention. As far as the idea that 'other countries' do this - I would think not. The West may do this rarely for convicted criminals and espionage but journalists. This is like Khashoggi. The US should have done more if but trying to maintain a delicate balance with Turkey and SA. But my opinion of the previous administration's response to that is for another blog. Biden and Putin are supposed to meet next month after the G7 summit this may or may not be discussed in particular but likely will be a factor in overall discussions.

    I am curious as to how many EU/Western citizens would be in Belarus aside from academic or familial ties I can't see why anyone would go there.

  4. Tim Dunn

    Mr. Moon,
    Can you list each event over the past, say, 50 years, where and when a country used military assets to force down a commercial flight that was solely overflying its airspace to remove a passenger, let alone a dissident journalist?

  5. Dan

    Good. If you are an EU citizen in Belarus, hop on the next train and get out. The country has committed state-sponsored hijacking of a passenger aircraft. It’s going to get ugly.

  6. Morgan

    Belarus got what it deserved I hope these limits stick around.

  7. Rich

    This is Belarus testing the boundaries, testing the EUs resolve, no question.

  8. Mr Moon

    The flight continued for the 2hrs+ to burn fuel before landing again in Minsk.

    Only minutes before the Amsterdam Belavia flight had had no issues.

    Considering that Belarusians cannot enter Spain currently due to Covid restrictions (unless they fall into quite strict exemptions), the vast majority of the passengers on board would have been Spanish trying to return home.

    I still believe this action is the wrong step to take. It punishes ordinary citizens...

    The flight continued for the 2hrs+ to burn fuel before landing again in Minsk.

    Only minutes before the Amsterdam Belavia flight had had no issues.

    Considering that Belarusians cannot enter Spain currently due to Covid restrictions (unless they fall into quite strict exemptions), the vast majority of the passengers on board would have been Spanish trying to return home.

    I still believe this action is the wrong step to take. It punishes ordinary citizens and not the president of Belarus. Why haven't we seen any diplomatic expulsions or recalling of ambassadors?

    And lets not pretend countless other countries wouldn't do the same thing as Belarus did on Sunday (some already have - USA, Ukraine etc.)

  9. Tim Dunn

    According to another source, Air France's flight from CDG to SVO was cancelled because Russia said it was NOT overflying Belarus.
    This could get real messy real fast.

  10. Aaron

    Looks like someone didn’t pay attention in dictator school! (Taken from Reddit)

  11. Mike C

    Presumably Belavia could take a leaf out of Qatar's book when it was denied access to Gulf airspace, and continue to fly to Königsberg if they wanted to by tracking over Saint Petersburg then over the sea to get there.

  12. That Guy

    This doesn’t look like pilots/ATC being surprised (or failing to communicate), it looks like them testing their ability to enter EU airspace, and learning they really can’t.

    That aligns with Giovanna’s comment.

  13. Klaus

    @Giovanna: that is incorrect. EU is recommending but in the end each country is deciding if and when to close airspace. France was very quick while other countries wait so that foreigner can return home.

  14. Giovanna

    Actually the EU closed their airspace to all Bielorussian companies two days ago. Just like they are ordering their own companies to avoid Bielorussian airspace.

  15. Mauricio Matos

    According to their website, they have cancelled all flights to EU and also Kaliningrad (as they would have to fly over EU air space to get there) until the end of October.

Featured Comments Load all 15 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Mh

"If only Belarusian air traffic control were as diligent about warning of closed airspace as it is about passing on imaginary bomb threats (in fairness, I recognize this these decisions were made at higher levels)…" Haha :-)

snic

@Aaron: "Looks like someone didn’t pay attention in dictator school!" On the contrary, Lukachenko has been paying a LOT of attention in Putin's School of Dictatorship. Lukachenko has observed Putin literally get away with murder outside of Russia's borders for years. The repercussions to Putin have been practically nonexistent. Why should Lukachenko expect anything different?

CRAIG

In the larger scope of things it depends on how Russia responds. Since Belarus is essentially a vassal state of Russia the West's response will be largely dictated by how much they are willing to push Comrade Putin. Russia is non popular in the EU (despite buying a lot of natural gas from them) even in Poland with their storied history so it is unlikely you will hear about a lot of dissention. As far as the idea that 'other countries' do this - I would think not. The West may do this rarely for convicted criminals and espionage but journalists. This is like Khashoggi. The US should have done more if but trying to maintain a delicate balance with Turkey and SA. But my opinion of the previous administration's response to that is for another blog. Biden and Putin are supposed to meet next month after the G7 summit this may or may not be discussed in particular but likely will be a factor in overall discussions. I am curious as to how many EU/Western citizens would be in Belarus aside from academic or familial ties I can't see why anyone would go there.

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