For A World In Chaos: OpsGroup

Credit: Screenshot of opsgroup website

The world has always been an uncertain place, especially for those of us who fly internationally. Aviators who spend a great deal of time outside their own borders are forever faced with the challenge of knowing where the dangers are,in an effort to either avoid or deal with those uncertainties. 

Pilots who fly for large airlines with bases all over the world typically have an advantage, because these airlines have personnel wherever they fly. As we often say in the military, there is no substitute for “boots on the ground.” But the pace of change is so rapid, even most airlines find themselves at a disadvantage. What hope do we in smaller flight departments have? Fortunately, we have OpsGroup.

The problem with most aviation news organizations attempting to keep up with all international developments is that they just don’t have a worldwide “boots on the ground” presence. By the time they find out about something you need to know about, it may be too late. The 8,000+ members of OpsGroup report in as soon as they experience any relevant issues, and the news goes out immediately. They’ve proved themselves again in just the last few months. If you were a member of OpsGroup, you would have learned about each of these days before the news was out in the usual aviation new sites.

GPS Spoofing. I first read about aircraft suffering navigation failures while following fake GPS signals in an OpsGroup email on Sept. 25, followed by news of 20 more such reports in a risk warning they published a few days later. Three days later the U.S. FAA issued a formal warning. Reports of GPS spoofing and false EGPWS alerts are now common in much of the Middle East, but there are still no FAA or EASA prohibitions or restrictions.

No-Notice War. I woke up on Saturday, Oct. 7 to an email about a surprise war in Israel. It took some flight planning services a few days to catch up. Imagine flying into a war zone because your flight planning service providers took the weekend off. Within a day, OpsGroup rated the risk to crews and passengers as high at all Israeli destinations and recommended avoiding overflight of Tel Aviv.

Sometimes flight risks are longstanding, but you may not be up on the latest news. The OpsGroup Safe Airspace feature includes a conflict zone and risk database that should be checked prior to any trip outside your normal flight routines. Not all risks are to life and limb, but to mission success. Crossing the North Atlantic for the first time? They have a tutorial. Baffled by recent changes to rules of private flights departing the U.S,? Learn from pilots who were first to confront them.

How does OpsGroup do this so quickly? Their network of users report in using WhatsApp, email, and online “spy reports.” If you fly internationally, you need to become a member. The cost averages around $10 monthly per member. My flight department has been a subscriber for 10 years now. In that time, OpsGroup has saved us from departing for an airport that was closed but unmentioned in Notams, helped us to navigate the ever-changing requirements for Letters of Authorization for a new airplane, and alerted us to changes in customs, immigration, and quarantine at many of our destinations during the pandemic of 2020. Our annual subscription is the smartest flight planning expense in our budget. I consider it insurance.

While you are at this year’s BACE, you should drop by the OpsGroup booth N2127. They are hosting a daily coffee meetup at 10:30 each show day, as well as some lighthearted relief in the form of games, an International Ops Quiz, free flight crew goodies and the opportunity to take part in designing new NAT and Pacific charts.

James Albright

James is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot with time in the T-37B, T-38A, KC-135A, EC-135J (Boeing 707), E-4B (Boeing 747) and C-20A/B/C (Gulfstream III…