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Russian parliament likely to discuss allowing foreign pilots into domestic civil aviation

December 05, 2013, 20:06 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, December 05. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian State Duma will most likely discuss a bill that will allow domestic air companies to hire foreign pilots, Deputy Andrei Andreyev (Communist Party), a member of the Duma transport committee, told Itar-Tass on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Mikhail Abyzov, the minister of the Russian Federation, said that the Russian government had approved a bill allowing Russian air companies to hire foreign pilots.

The cabinet of ministers discussed a federal bill on amending some Russian laws in part of allowing foreign citizens to be employed as air crew members by Russian air companies at its meeting on Thursday.

“Yes. The bill was approved,” Abyzov said after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

“The bill will be valid until 2019,” Abyzov explained. He said that it primarily concerned the training of air crew captains in which Russian aviation had the biggest shortage.

Russia has had problems in providing its national air carriers with qualified flight personnel. The unfavorable situation that has unfolded in recent years is caused by several factors: no more than 160 pilots graduated from Russian flight schools between 1995-2009 compared to almost 700 pilots who annually quitted their jobs. It takes three or four years to train pilots for the principal type of aircraft. As a result, Russian aviation needs up to 1,500 new pilots every year whom it does not get. This personnel deficit forces domestic air carriers to hire low qualified pilots.

“The use of foreign pilots will enable Russian air companies to liquidate the shortage of flight personnel and will help accelerating the training of domestic staff that will learn skills and experience from their foreign colleagues,” Abyzov went on to say.

“The question of whether foreign pilots should be allowed to work at Russian regular airlines has been actively discussed in the professional community,” Deputy Andrei Andreyev said, noting that both pros and cons were being voiced. Both the advocates and opponents of the idea to allow foreign pilots to work for domestic air carriers provide convincing arguments to defend their positions.

“The country really has an acute shortage of pilots,” Andreyev went on to say. He explained that many military pilots had been re-qualified into civil aviation in recent years but that resource had almost been exhausted.

“The retraining of flight engineers into pilots is the cause of many fatal errors which often lead to tragic consequences, like the one which we saw in Kazan,” the Communist Party deputy emphasized.

A Boeing-737 aircraft crashed while landing at Kazan airport on November 17. The ill-fated flight ended in the deaths of all 44 passengers and the crew of six. Experts believe that pilot error was the most likely cause behind the crash.

Andreyev confirmed that the transport committee would discuss the bill as soon as it received it from the government. He found it hard to predict what stance the committee was going to take on foreign pilots but assumed that the debate would be heated. Andreyev added that the bill allowing Russian air companies to hire foreign pilots would be submitted to discussion within the framework of the next Duma session.

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