LONDON – As a result of what we have seen in the last few days, Kabul Airport in Afghanistan has suspended commercial operations following the impending takeover of the capital by the Taliban.
There have been reports surrounding the certain airlines that operate into Hamid Karzai International Airport, with screenshots circulating flights turning back to their origin points.
One-Way Ticket Back To Their Origin Airport
The one of highlight comes from EK640 (Emirates Flight 640), which was a Boeing 777-300ER where moments after it commenced descent into the capital, it proceeded to turn around and climb back up to its cruising altitude back to Dubai.
A6-EPT was the aircraft in question operating the flight today, and was in the air for just over five and a half hours, bearing in mind the flight is around two and a half hours typically.
The same thing happened to FZ305 of FlyDubai, where it turned around back to the UAE capital a lot earlier than EK640 did.
According to NATO, all commercial flights to and from Kabul’s main airport have been suspended until further notice, with only military aircraft permitted to operate in the area.
British Airways have already stated it will now avoid the airspace of the country amid such security concerns, adding Iraq and Iran to their lists.
On the other hand, Virgin Atlantic and Thai Airways have been pictured on the likes of FlightRadar24 still transiting the airspace, despite everything that is going on so far.
Longer Flight Times But Better Safety?
What this will mean is potentially longer flight times for certain flights, but in the grand scheme of things, the safety will be better preserved to stop the Taliban from potentially shooting down commercial aircraft out of the sky.
The actions that we have seen today will no doubt change the way that some airlines across Europe and the Middle East fly, in order to prevent such a disaster from taking place.
All we can hope in all of this is that those who can get out will get out smoothly, and that strong action must be taken.
UPDATE 1 – According to the New York Post, the airport has been taking fire from Taliban forces even during the evacuation of American citizens of personnel. “The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly, including at the airport,” the US Embassy in Afghanistan said earlier.
UPDATE 2 – Following the U.S Embassy relocating to the airport, the French Embassy has taken the same tact, with it aiming to remain open to facilitate the evacuation of French citizens in the area.
UPDATE 3 – A Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker of the United States Air Force has been spotted south of Kabul heading south-west on FlightRadar24 for a few minutes before disappearing from FlightRadar24. Registration was 62-3554 and used the callsign SHELL24.
UPDATE 4 – One flight that managed to get out of the chaos unscathed was TK706/707 of Turkish Airlines. TK706 departed Istanbul at 00:43EET before arriving in Kabul at 06:43AFT. The return, TK707, departed Kabul at 08:38AFT, before arriving back into Istanbul at 12:41EET.
UPDATE 5 – Footage is beginning to emerge of hundreds, even thousands, of passengers swarming the tarmac at Kabul’s airport with no security or anything. Frightening scenes to say the least!
UPDATE 6 – A list of all of the military aircraft involved in what is being dubbed as ‘The Kabul Airlift’ – This list shows exactly the sheer amount of aircraft needed to help those in Afghanistan!
UPDATE 7 – Some more photos from the scene at Kabul’s airport.
UPDATE 8 – As reported by FlightRadar24, Turkish Airlines are sending a Boeing 777-300ER that is currently en route to Kabul. TK706 is the usual flight number for this regular service, but with commercial operations ceased, this will likely be an evacuation flight. On top of this, both the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force are continuing to send in aircraft to pick up more personnel.
UPDATE 9 – Matthias Gebauer of Der Spiegel reports on Twitter that the German Air Force will send four aircraft to Kabul, consisting of Airbus A400M and A310MRTT aircraft to assist in the evacuation operation.
UPDATE 10 – The United States Department of State and Defense has announced that the Air Traffic Control facilities in Kabul will be taken over by the US forces based in the capital.
In a joint statement provided by the two bodies, they stated: “Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals”.
UPDATE 11 – We continue our coverage this morning with some horrifying scenes coming out of the airport. Photos and videos have circulated of an unknown number of people falling to their death when they have attempted to hunch up on the outside of a departing C-17 and fall to their deaths. Unfortunate scenes currently.
UPDATE 12 – One positive feat out of this airlift was through RCH871 handling 800 passengers in just one flight on the C-17. Click here to find out more!
UPDATE 13 – DefenceGeek has updated the list of movements operating into Kabul as part of the evacuation efforts. The number is mindblowing.
UPDATE 14 – There are as we write only seven commercial aircraft on the ground at Kabul, belonging to Afghanistan’s airlines being Kam Air, Ariana Afghan Airlines and Bakhtar Afghan Airlines.
UPDATE 15 – Some people trying to flee have been pictured sitting on top of Kam Air’s Airbus A340 at Kabul Airport.