Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Even THEY won't go to Baghdad now

AP reports from Baghdad that air traffic control diverted both the Royal Jordanian flights to the Iraqi capital yesterday due to the airfield being under mortar fire. Which probably explains why (as pointed out to me) neither the BGIA nor the Airline Transport flights from Sharjah to Baghdad have left for two days. Neither have the corresponding flights ex-Baghdad turned up. When even the crazy-arsed Russian desperados aren't desperate enough to go there, you know there's a serious problem.

Although the AP report mentions that RJA were planning to operate as normal today, their online departures board doesn't show it (which could of course be deliberate). In fact all traces have vanished from their website except for the route map (which tells you that you get 75 frequent flyer points for the Amman-Baghdad trip. And a medal. No, I made that bit up.) One wonders if the decision to close Baghdad Airport over the election might be turning into an exercise in making a virtue of necessity.

You can't say anyone's keeping this a secret though. Try the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) for Iraq, available here (MSWord document - note 229pp). There's much in it of interest: for example, although the pages are now footered "General Establishment of Civil Aviation" and there's a big Iraqi eagle and some Arabic on the front, it still makes it very clear that the control authority for Iraq's airspace is the US Air Force Regional Air Movements Coordinating Centre. Hardly a surprise, but observant minds will note that the text claims that the people you have to ask are the Iraqi Ministry of Transport, although your slot request form goes to RAMCC and to one of various airfield managers whose email addresses end af.mil. Oh, and who is this "contact" who seems to have a US phone number? (bizarrely, in Yonkers, NY.) Curious. Amusingly, too, the various Iraqi organisations cited don't have phone numbers or postal addresses yet (although MSWord comments mutely ask "Correct?"). And the whole section on charts is crossed "TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED", as is the section on weather reporting. Oh, and the section on search and rescue, which incorporates the following gem:
"LOCATION: At all of the Iraqi Governorates What?
Mind you, they must surely be joking about the email address for Basra Airport Ops: basrahairops@hotmail.com No wonder we've got problems if the best the RAF in Iraq can do for communications is a Hotmail account. I imagine someone is sweating under a tin roof, scrolling through 56 penis-enlargement ads looking for the weather forecasts....it's a strange world.


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