North Korea has agreed to the opening of the first overland route through the Pyongyang flight information region (FIR), clearing the way for more direct flights from Japan to China and Europe.

International flights have also been started on two new air routes through Afghanistan between Asia and Europe.

The agreement in Tokyo between Japan, North Korea and South Korea will lead to the opening of route B332 on 10 September. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that flight time from Tokyo and Kansai to China and Europe will be cut by up to 30min.

The B332 route will run north from point Miho in the Tokyo FIR, through the South Korean Taegu FIR, entering North Korean maritime airspace at point Kansu.

The route will cross the North Korean mainland, overflying Pyongyang, before joining either route A326 to Beijing or A575/ A345 to northern China.

The agreement has also allowed the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau to extract a major concession from the Japan Air Self-Defence Force to trim the size of its "Area G" no-fly zone to the east of B332 for flights between Miho and Kansu.

The US Government, however, will still not permit US airlines and US-registered aircraft to overfly the North Korean mainland.

Other agreements reached in Tokyo at the recent Informal Pacific Air Traffic Air Traffic Control Group meeting include the introduction of Required Navigation Performance 10 (RNP10) on the heavily used central Pacific routes from Japan to Hawaii and mainland USA.

The move halves lateral separation to 50nm (90km), increasing capacity and improving routing flexibility.

Elsewhere in Asia, airlines have begun using the newly opened V888 and V838 routes across Afghanistan between Pakistan and Turkmenistan. These provide a more direct routeing from the Indian subcontinent to Europe and an alternative to the northern V2500 and, until recently, the off-limits A466 route over Kabul.

The overflight charges will help finance an IATA-sponsored modernisation of Afghan ATC.

Source: Flight International