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Summarizing the Post-Earthquake Airlift to Turkey and Syria
First occurring on 06 Feb 2023, a series of earthquakes hit Southeastern Turkey and Northwestern Syria. I have been following air traffic in the region ever since the earthquakes hit. This has resulted in a list of 660 flights to airports in Southeastern Turkey (mainly Adana, Incirlik and Gaziantep) and Syria (mainly Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia). Now, a month after the earthquakes, it is time to have a closer look at these flights and analyze patterns in them.
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Flights by origin
On the first day of the earthquakes, 06 Feb 2023, I identified a total of 28 flights into Turkey and Syria. Daily flights peaked on the next day. On that day, 07 Feb 2023, 64 flights were identified in total.
From 07 Feb 2023 onwards, daily flights delivering aid or rescue workers to Turkey and Syria would reduce from over 50 to around 8 one month after the earthquakes.
The following paragraphs summarize some of the patterns visible in the graph above.
Flights from Europe
On the day of the earthquake, the majority of relief flights came from Europe (67%). European aid flights, however, quickly diminished: two weeks after the earthquakes, almost no European flights remained.
Flights from the Middle East, Asia and Africa
Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries were slightly slower to respond. Their flights generally started on 07 Feb 2023, a full day after the first earthquake.
Flights from the United Arab Emirates
Whereas most countries delivered the majority of their aid on the first days after the earthquakes, the United Arab Emirates were slower to respond. Their flights would only peak 10 days after the first earthquake, on 16 and 17 Feb. By doing so, these flights effectively compensate for the decline in European flights.
One month after the earthquakes, the UAE still sent around four flights per day, which is about half of the global contribution.
Scaling each daily flight count to 100%, the UAE compensation for a European decrease in flights becomes extra clear. This can be seen in the graph below.
With 176 flights in total, the UAE are by far the largest contributor. Qatar (44 flights) and Germany (38 flights) follow far behind. I have previously hypothesized that this large amount of flights may be due to U.N. organizations with warehouses in the UAE.
Totals per origin country
In total, the list contains flights from 69 countries.
From Africa: From Algeria (10 flights), Djibouti (1), Egypt (5), Kenya (1), Libya (4), Sudan (2) and Tunisia (5).
From Asia: Armenia (1), Azerbaijan (21), Bangladesh (2), China (6), India (11), Indonesia (2), Japan (1), Kazakhstan (6), Kyrgyzstan (1), Malaysia (2), Mongolia (1), Pakistan (16), Russia (21), South Korea (2), Thailand (1), Turkmenistan (2) and Uzbekistan (7).
From Europe: Austria (6), Belgium (14), Belarus (6), Bulgaria (5), Czechia (5), Denmark (2), Estonia (1), Finland (3), France (5), Germany (38), Greece (14), Hungary (4), Iceland (1), Italy (15), Lithuania (2), Luxembourg (1), Norway (2), Poland (20), Portugal (1), Romania (16), Slovakia (2), Slovenia (2), Spain (7), Sweden (2), Switzerland (4), The Netherlands (4), Ukraine (2) and United Kingdom (13).
From the Middle East: Bahrain (2), Iran (7), Iraq (11), Israel (20), Jordan (19), Kuwait (11), Oman (9), Qatar (44), Saudi Arabia (8) and the United Arab Emirates (176).
From other countries: Australia (2), Brazil (1), El Salvador (1), Mexico (1), United States of America (19) and Venezuela (1).
Flights by destination
In the first two weeks following the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria (06 Feb - 19 Feb), most flights flew to Turkey rather than Syria: 392 flights to Turkey compared to to 114 to Syria.
In the third and fourth week (20 Feb - 06 Mar) however, there were more flights to Syria (84) than to Turkey (75). In total around 70% of flights was destined for Turkey, with the remaining 30% going to Syria.
In the first two weeks following the earthquakes, an average of 28 relief flights landed in Turkey. In the third and fourth week, there were on average 5 daily relief flights to Turkey (-81%), a sharp decrease. This largely matches up with the reduction in European flights, which initially delivered relief primarily to Turkey and not to Syria.
In Syria however, there were on average around 8 daily relief flights during the first two weeks. In the third and fourth week, this number dropped to around 5.5 flights, a change of only about -26.2%.
(The flight counts in the above paragraphs exceed the 660 flights mentioned earlier because some flights visit both Syria and Turkey.)
On the first day of the earthquakes, the majority of international relief flights was European. European countries generally focused their aid on the first two weeks after the earthquakes, and generally flew to Turkey rather than Syria. Flights from Asia, the Middle East and (North) Africa show a slower decrease. For all flights combined, most aid (64 flights) was delivered on the day after the first earthquakes, 07 Feb 2023.
While most countries delivered during the first week following the earthquakes, the United Arab Emirates delivered most aid after ten days. In the three weeks after, about half of the global relief flights originate from the UAE.
The majority of aid flights went to Turkey. Flights to Turkey show a very clear focus on the first weeks following the earthquakes, which correlates to the European contribution. There were less flights to Syria, but these flights show a lesser decline over time.
Remarks about this list
All flights in this list were either tracked using Mode-S/ADS-B or were pictured at their destination in Syria or Turkey. This means that this list may be incomplete.
The list was made by me alone. However, some flights were only added after people on Twitter pointed them out to me.
I do not get paid for making this list, nor have I been paid for any earlier tweets or blog posts. Creating the list cost around 20-30 hours in total (previous blog post), plus around five for analysis (this blog post).
This list was made by a human. This means that despite good intentions, there could be inconsistencies or mistakes, and some flights might be missing. I consider the 660 flights to likely be an underestimation and consider it very unlikely to be an overestimation.
In some graphs in this article, the world was divided into regions (Europe, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania). Given their large contributions, I have chosen to list the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates separately. Flights from the United Arab Emirates, which is in the Middle East, were not counted twice.
Some aircraft (for example Iranian military aircraft) are difficult to track because they may not be using Mode-S or ADS-B. These flights will be missing from this list if they were not spotted at their destinations.
Only international flights were listed. There were dozens of domestic relief flights, in particular by Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Air Force. Due to time constraints, I have not logged these flights.
International Turkish Airlines flights carrying relief were generally not listed, because they can usually not be distinguished from regular commercial air traffic.
Only “unscheduled” flights were listed. This means that regular non-charter commercial air traffic was not included. In general, this was verified by seeing if the callsign/flight number was used on the same route before the earthquakes.
Some aircraft repeatedly visited Turkey or Syria to transport earthquake victims, or visited only to pick up rescue workers and equipment delivered earlier. I have attempted to keep not include these in this list. In some circumstances however, the reason for a flight is not entirely clear.