Japan has agreed to open its first route into North Korean airspace following the successful completion of international trial flights through the Pyongyang flight information region (FIR).

The new route, tentatively designated B332, will run due north from point Miho within the Tokyo FIR, through neighbouring South Korean airspace, to join route B467 at the Kansu entry point into the Pyongyang FIR. The new route is scheduled to open by mid-year.

For the first time, Route B332 will open up North Korean airspace to flights from Osaka and Fukuoka in Japan. It will also offer more direct routing for traffic overflying the Pyongyang FIR when operating between North America and South-East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Until the new Miho route is opened, flights entering and leaving the Pyongyang FIR at Kansu will be restricted to the Taegu FIR and the more northerly B467 extending across the southern Korean peninsular, necessitating an easterly diversion for traffic connecting with B576 to fly south.

The Pyongyang FIR is due to open to scheduled commercial traffic from 23 April, following a series of proving flights led by a Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing 747-400 freighter on 1March.

It is thought that access to the FIR will shorten winter westbound flights from Los Angeles and Vancouver to Hong Kong by up to 50min.

Source: Flight International