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Aeroflot flight descends to avoid US spy plane

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According to Russian aviation regulator Rosaviatsia, an Aeroflot Airbus A330-300 on flight 501 between Tel Aviv and Moscow had to lower its height by 2,000 feet (600 meters) to evade NATO spy planes.

The event occurred over the Black Sea on December 3rd.

According to a Rosaviatsia representative, the aircraft — a CL-600, also known as ISR Artemis – abruptly altered altitude from 11,000 meters (about 36,000 feet) to 9,200 meters (approximately 30,000 feet) and crossed the path of the civilian flight.

Russian flight controllers attempted to communicate with the military jet but received no answer, according to the statement. As a result, they requested that the Aeroflot flight’s altitude be changed.

AFL501 began dropping at 6:55 UTC, when it was about 70 kilometers (37 nautical miles) from the Turkish shore, and changed altitude from 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) to 31,000 feet (9,450 meters), before beginning the rise to 36,000 feet (11,000 meters) at 7:04 UTC.

According to RIA Novosti, the flight carried 142 passengers. Aeroflot pilots could visually identify the American plane when the two planes passed each other, according to a Rosaviatsia spokesperson.

In addition, the aviation authority has stated that it will file a protest notice in response to the occurrence. It claims that NATO aircraft flying close to the Russian border are endangering civilian aircraft.

The Russian state news outlet TASS also said that Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets were dispatched on the same day to intercept two NATO surveillance planes over the Black Sea: a CL-600 Artemis and a Boeing RC-135.

According to information obtained by TASS from the Russian Defense Ministry, the fighter jets successfully blocked the American planes from crossing the Russian border and returned to base.

It’s possible that the information referred to the same CL-600 Artemis flight.

In Europe, the US Army currently operates one of these aircraft. It was registered as N488CR and based at Constanta Mihail Kogălniceanu Airport in Romania (CND).

Popular flight monitoring programs like Flightradar24 and Radarbox are unable to track the aircraft due to its characteristics. However, their flights are viewable on services such as ADS-B Exchange and PlaneRadar that display ADS-B data directly.

According to both services, N488CR was flying over Gerogian territory near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on December 3 in the morning. While the aircraft’s route over the Black Sea crossed with that of AFL501, the services do not show the extreme shift in altitude, which Rosaviatsia claims was the key reason for the Aeroflot flight’s avoidance maneuver.

N488CR was cruising at 38,500 feet throughout its journey over the Black Sea, according to ADS-B Exchange data. The data is incomplete and has substantial gaps due to the ADS-B system’s patchy coverage away from the coast.

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