Aviation Geopolitics and Chasing POTUS


Saudi Arabia to Cyprus on hop 1 of the POTUS media chase plane this morning because to the Saudis Israel does not exist
Saudi Arabia to Cyprus on hop 1 of the POTUS media chase plane this morning because to the Saudis Israel does not exist

This week’s POTUS visit to the Middle East presents plenty of logistical challenges on many fronts. Among them is the scheduling of consecutive state visits in countries without diplomatic relations. A trip from Riyadh and Tel Aviv is relatively trivial for Air Force One to make as it is not subject to the various aviation agreements between the countries it moves between. But the Delta Air Lines 757-200 carrying the press is just another charter flight, subject to typical rules and regulations for operations. And that means it was not permitted to make the same trip yesterday.

Nonstop or direct? Depends on if you’re a world leader for this route.
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

The chase plane flew instead from Saudi Arabia to Larnaca, Cyprus, taking a short break on the island nation before continuing on to Tel Aviv. The pause at Larnaca was an hour-ish longer than initially expected from what I can see in the flight plans; not so sure why that is.

UPDATE: Maybe not that long in LCA, after all, but late out of RUH??

 

Saudi Arabia to Cyprus on hop 1 of the POTUS media chase plane this morning because to the Saudis Israel does not exist
Saudi Arabia to Cyprus on hop 1 of the POTUS media chase plane this morning because to the Saudis Israel does not exist
And then, eventually, a quick hop from Cyprus to Israel for the media to complete the trip
And then, eventually, a quick hop from Cyprus to Israel for the media to complete the trip

Sure, the couple extra hours en route for the media isn’t a major deal at the end of the day, but it does highlight some of the geopolitical challenges that likely aren’t going to change much any time soon.

https://twitter.com/spectatorindex/status/866565810893881348

I cannot help but wonder if this is one of those “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situations. Is it wise, fresh off a $100bn+ arms deal, to flaunt the rules and disrespect the host nations?

Also worth noting that this is far from the first time Larnaca has been used as a proxy for Tel Aviv. In 2014 KLM had its crew to overnight in Cyprus rather than Tel Aviv, for example, as a security precaution. And it was not alone in that move.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

17 Comments

  1. It may be the first SCHEDULED flight from Saudi to Israel, but I know for a fact that at least one other aircraft has diverted to Tel Aviv with mechanical issues after departure from Jeddah en route to Europe.

    1. Which, of course, makes sense. Diversions to avoid even greater problems are accommodated. Were they not that would be all sorts of troublesome.

    2. The Saudis will not accommodate an aircraft originating in Israel even for a diversion. I know one aircraft which was denied by both Jeddah and Port Sudan and had to go to Asmara.

    3. Well it’s complex. Aircraft departing Israel and heading through the Red Sea corridor have to fly the FIR boundary between Sudan and Saudi after leaving Egyptian airspace. If they enter Eritrean airspace they cannot then transition to Ethiopian airspace, so they have to continue from Eritrea to Djibouti and then either fly through Ethiopia or continue along the Somalia/Yemen FIR boundary if heading East. Since the aircraft are not ‘officially’ there (and are ignored by ATC even though they are broadcasting on the same channels) acknowledging them even in an emergency is politically fraught.

  2. I wouldn’t call it “just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” nor was it flaunting. Feelings about this administration not withstanding, I think it’s a good example on two fronts: first, what SHOULD BE between nations in the region, and second, the importance of free travel during the diplomacy process.

    1. Pretty sure I’d feel the same way about such a trip with any administration.

      Of course I think free travel is a good idea. I push pretty hard on that front. But I think there is also a smarter approach to diplomacy that doesn’t necessarily have to be quite so blunt. Pick a third country to visit along the way, perhaps, building diplomacy rather than trying to bring it about with a 2×4. Especially for a guy with roughly zero experience in such matters.

    2. Shuttle diplomacy has proven pretty effective at times in the past… and the point is that diplomats shouldn’t be restrained by local political obstacles on the ground, we should collectively free them of those restraints.

  3. Gee Seth,
    I think your statement
    ” I cannot help but wonder if this is one of those “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situations. Is it wise, fresh off a $100bn+ arms deal, to flaunt the rules and disrespect the host nations?”

    Is much ado about nothing.

    1. Maybe, maybe not.

      I doubt the Saudis are going to use it as a justification to not buy the $100bn in weapons. But I’m also not so convinced that heavy-handed diplomacy is such a smart play.

  4. Also note that the DL press charter flight didn’t fly over the Sinai peninsula, precaution taken by most non ME airlines.

  5. Fuel stop in Hahn or sleep over

    and why hahn and not Ramstein oder other one

  6. Seth per the DL FLIFO screen shot, they left 1 hr 2 min earlier than scheduled out of RUH and the stop in LCA was only 40 minutes. (Re: your comment about stop in LCA / late out of RUH)

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