By John Lee.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is lifting its 16-year-old ban on commercial flights by U.S. carriers to two airports in Kurdish northern Iraq, citing increased stability in the region.
Civilian flights were halted in 1996 for safety reasons, the FAA said in a notice to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow (you can download a pre-publication copy here).
The agency will now allow flights into Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports in Iraqi Kurdistan, following the use of these airports by commercial operators from other nations without incident for years.
U.S. civilian flights have been allowed to operate over Iraq at altitudes above 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), and the FAA has granted permission for some commercial flights into that country under contract by the military or other agencies.
According to the FAA notice, the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees security issues, also must approve U.S. carrier operations in Iraq.
The FAA added that it is committed to actively and continually evaluating airports in other regions of Iraq so that they can be used by U.S. civil operators.
(Sources: FAA, Bloomberg)