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Not sure if this particular question fits more on Aviation or Politics.

I am following the international situation these days and sometimes I watch a bit of live Flightradar.

Today en route to Kabul I stumbled upon this anonymous Boeing 737 BBJ that apparently has no registration number, etc, but looks like having departed from Amman to Kabul.

Flight map

The map shows that the pilot really wanted to avoid certain territories like hell. I know that air routes are (more than) often dictated by political relationships. I also knew that Israeli flights have to take considerable detours when flying over unfriendly countries, especially before the agreements with the UAE.

A direct route involves flying through Iraq and Iran. Clearly, we can all see these days that all flights not to/from Afghanistan are avoiding it, but what about other countries in the Middle East area? I see a lot of traffic over the skies of these territories.

What could bring the pilot so far from the shortest/cheapest route?

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  • $\begingroup$ Without knowing more about the aircraft, this might be difficult to say. The aircraft type is listed as "737-7HJ(BBJ)", meaning it is a Boeing Business Jet. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Aug 20 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ So it's not a commercial flight (indeed, these days there should be none inbound). May be a presidential/private superjet, then? But presidential flights are normally identifiable, aren't them? $\endgroup$ Aug 20 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ It's not a commercial flight. It could be a government or international organization (I doubt rich private individuals would travel to Afghanistan in their private jet right now). The fact that FR24 doesn't know about the registration number, doesn't imply the aircraft doesn't have one. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Aug 20 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Tip: next time FR24 doesn't show the reg, head over to adsbexchange :-) $\endgroup$
    – ymb1
    Aug 20 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ What I want to know is why they avoided Turkmenistan, of all places... $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Aug 21 at 6:01
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State aircraft - especially Military - do not have the ICAO freedoms of the air. They must apply for diplomatic clearance to transit the airspace of a foreign country. Often this takes days or sometimes weeks to obtain and depending on who you are and where you are going can mean that certain routes may be preferred, especially at short notice. This may be the reason, if it's a State Aircraft (Govt / Mil), you see this aircraft avoiding certain countries.

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Thanks to @Arkhem for suggesting a government flight. Upvote him/her post if you wish, it contains the exact reason for not flying over certain areas, I'm just adding a complement to this answer.


It's possibly Hillwood airways, flight HWA228, using N737AT which ICAO id is A9E51E.

This aircraft was once owned by US DoD, and according to this tweet and this post Hillwood is currently involved in an airlift under a contract with DoD:

N737AT

N737AT, source

It was flying again today, but disappeared from the ADS-B tracking network soon after passing Cyprus:

enter image description here


Thanks to @ymb1 for suggesting the ADS-B tracking site ADS-B Exchange which allowed me to check for the aircraft last flights.

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    $\begingroup$ Just to check, that's Cyprus in the picture, did it turn left and head down the med or did it turn its ADS-B off before heading into Turkey? $\endgroup$
    – Arkhem
    Aug 22 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Arkhem: My mistake, this is Cyprus not Crete. The track stopped here, so either there was no close receiver on the ground (unlikely), or the transmitter was turned off. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Aug 22 at 21:07
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One good motivation to avoid certain airspaces is presented in the stunt recently pulled by the Belarussian authorities:

Ryanair Flight 4978 was forced to land in Minsk on false pretenses, and two passengers were then taken off the plane.

For a special flight such as the one in question here, it may very well be worth to fly not just a bit of extra to avoid the possibility to get hijacked by a government.

Normal passenger traffic does not have the luxury of catering to every passengers safety needs.

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  • $\begingroup$ I know that case. But I'd know for sure that if I was a refugee flying from safe country A to safe country B, a lowcost airline would never listen to me speaking at the check in desk "I should advise you not to fly over country C airspace because I have a bounty over my head in C and your flight could be... uhm... delayed". What I really mean is that nowadays I am skeptic that commercial airlines could change their route for a very single name on the manifest. A state/military/private flight is different $\endgroup$ Aug 22 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Duh, I'm refferring the specific flight in this question, not any tube full of tourists. I thought that would be quite obvious, better edit... normal passenger flights would not plan routes depending on who's wanted where, of course they wouldn't. Even if a passenger demanded a course change or that the crew disobey order given by, say, a couple of fighter jets, well you see the point. This specific flight, as you can see from the answer by mins has a very good reason to avoid as many middle eastern airspaces as possible $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Aug 22 at 19:18

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