An emergency order issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forbids planes from flying below 26,000ft in Venezuela’s airspace which rules out take-offs and landings. The FAA order gives US planes currently in Venezuela 48 hours to leave the country if it is safe to do so. The notice said: “All flight operations in the territory and airspace of Venezuela at altitudes below 26,000ft are prohibited until further advised due to the increasing political instability and tensions in Venezuela and the associated inadvertent risk to flight operations.”
Only flights which have received special permission from the US government are allowed to ignore an order from the FAA. In the event of an emergency, a pilot may deviate from the order to the extent required by that emergency.
Most US airlines have already put their regular flights to Venezuela on hold but the FAA order also applies to private aircraft.
The FAA had previously urged pilots to use caution when flying over Venezuela but stopped short of a ban.
The aviation body moved swiftly as clashes erupted in Caracas when opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a military uprising to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power.
Mr Guaidó, who declared himself president earlier this year, has called for massive protests across the country today.
His calls for a military uprising drew quick support from the Trump administration and fierce resistance from forces loyal to socialist leader Mr Maduro.
The violent street battles that erupted in parts of Caracas were the most serious challenge yet to Mr Maduro’s rule and while the rebellion seemed to have garnered only limited military support, at least one high-ranking official announced he was breaking with the embattled president.
Mr Maduro insisted the opposition had attempted to impose an “illegitimate government” with the support of the Washington and neighbouring Colombia, claiming Venezuela had been a victim of “aggression of all kinds”.