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Problems with pilot training in Russia

Old 25th Feb 2018, 12:54
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Red face Problems with pilot training in Russia

[LEFT]Dear Sirs!

My colleagues and I are trained airline pilots, instructors, recent Flying Schools graduates and those who are in the process of getting their professional ratings and licenses. All of us are united by one thing: we have become victims of state policy, aimed to totally eradicate private aviation education and training in Russia. Our pilot licences have been revoked and the flight schools where we received our training have also been closed. As a result, even the most experienced of us have no more chance of getting a job in the industry even after years of lawsuits to retain the privilege of flying again.

We are just the people who have fallen under the pressure of blind state machine. Our broken careers are only a consequence of the catastrophe in the industry, the source of which is the Russian state institution responsible for the safety of flights in Russia, the Federal Air Transport Agency, also known as SCAA.

According to their logic, fewer flights means safer operations, ridiculous as it might seem. The outcome of the policy is a drastic decrease in the number of national pilots and degradation of the quality of cadet pilot training.

The genocide of private education. The Beginning

In 2014, as a result of the investigation of B737 incident in Kazan, the corrupt scheme concerning one of the Russian flight schools was revealed, leading to a 2014 SCAA order, according to which 83 pilots lost their pilot licences. Some of these people were justly deprived of their licenses because they unlawfully got them.

Unfortunately, there were others, who honestly graduated from other private flight schools in Russia or abroad, and those who, as stipulated by Russian rules, had flown 200+ hours as private pilots and were qualified to get a commercial licence.
The major CPL revocation went unnoticed by the public: those who were affected did not complain, they just tried to get back to the profession.

However, this was just the beginning: soon the orders for pilot certificate cancellation were issued one by one, sometimes three orders a month. At the beginning of 2018, 33 orders were issued, and more than 500 pilots lost their pilot licences. It was a personal tragedy, and the pilots did not show any coordination (and they didn’t even know each other) in attempt to stand for their rights, trying to get a personal solution. Everything changed in the summer of 2017, when the cancellation order was issued against seven graduates of Chelyabinsk Flight School of Civil Aviation.

Chelyabinsk Flight School of Civil Aviation was the best private flight institution in Russia and the only private flight school in the country which was authorized to provide commercial pilot training. Russian state authorities have always imposed the strictest demands on the flight school. There were excellent training devices, new aircraft, qualified lecturers, its own infrastructure, etc. Students did not miss any lecture, flew allotted time and performed night, cross-country and solo flights. Their training was impeccable and up to the best standards. The graduates of the school, despite massive pilot certificate revoking conducted by the SCAA, did not expect to find their names in the above-mentioned SCAA order.

In contrast to many other pilots, graduates of Chelyabinsk Flight School of Civil Aviation refused to obediently accept their fate. They decided to sort things out and regain the right to fly. The reason for the cancellation order was specified as "providing unreliable information". What was the basis for such conclusion? SCAA did not ask the pilots any questions, did not try to find out how and what they were learning at the flight school. So, what didn’t SCAA like?

Various pieces of information that pilots provided SCAA with were announced by SCAA to be "unreliable information". Depending on the year of the program, in accordance with which the pilot had been trained, SCAA filed claims.

Some students did not have the training program listed in the Appendix to the Flight School Certificate, regardless of the regulation that the Certificate only specify the types of training, not the program itself. Some students of the Chelyabinsk Flight School of Civil Aviation (CFSCA) completed their studies when the former Flight School Certificate expired, regardless of the regulation that no Flight School Certificate be required for the initial training in schools approved by the Federal Ministrty of Education, which CFSCA had.
In fact, SCAA was not interested in the law. It made its orders to be the law.

It was apparent that the reason for the licence revoking was not the training of the pilots. Each of these pilots was ready to pass any exam to confirm the qualification but SCAA did not provide any opportunity for qualification test of any kind. There was only one option – to undergo the initial training from the very beginning as if the pilot had had no flight experience at all, this time in one of the state flight schools, to apply for an education on the general basis and pay 3-5 million roubles (approx. $50 000 to $85 000) to spend from 3 to 5 years for a full-time study. This also applied to some unlucky individuals who had logged several thousand hours in airlines.

The pilots found this proposal offensive. Later this incident was disclosed in the media and in May 2017 journalists announced across the country that 500 pilots were thrown out of the profession! In the comment, SCAA officials explained these measures were necessary for safety purposes. The pilots went to the courts. The court hearings have been going all over the country and they are still going on. Judges often do not delve into the essence of the matter, deciding that the public authority cannot be wrong. Individual victories of pilots drown in the inertia of the Judiciary of Russia, which is not guided by law or justice.

It should be noted that SCAA concentrated both legislative and executive power in one body: it has an authority to issue directives considered by the russian courts as law, and also is a prosecutor, accusing pilots while presenting no evidences for courts. And also there was no single legal lawsuit against any pilot who SCAA found "guilty of presenting unreliable information". Pilots got their licenses revoked without any court decision. They just found their names on the SCAA website as being detained from flying.

The Situation with Aviation Education in Russia

The country which occupies 1/6 of the land is not a great aviation power anymore. Russian cities in the Far East are eight days away from the capital by train; because of the price for airplane tickets the territories have become out of reach for many prospect passengers. Some closer distances are not close anymore because too often there are no direct routes from one city to another, such as a route from Khabarovsk to Yekaterinburg through transit in Moscow.

According to SCAA, in 2017 in Russia 1 531 131 flights were made, 111 airlines operated, and Russian airlines had serviced 105 052 171 passengers. Most of the air traffic was provided only by 5 companies such as Aeroflot, Rossiya Airlines, S7, Ural Airlines and Utair. For comparison, in the USA within this period the passenger traffic was more than 850 million passengers, and in China - more than 600 million passengers. It may be worth noting that in Russia there are no long-range aircraft of their own production, and the share of mid-range and short-range is several times lower than the share of similar foreign-made aircrafts.

The situation with the aviation education is not good either. There are five state aviation schools in the country, two higher educational institutes and three aviation colleges, where aviation staff are taught. There are 105 private flight schools in Russia and only few of them provide pilot training courses from the beginning. Private pilots are trained there, other pilots are retrained to the different type or converted from military to civil pilots. Chelyabinsk flight school trained commercial pilots: they paid for their training by themselves without burdening the state budget.

Since SCAA has started to eradicate private flight schools, in Russia there are only 2 flight schools which train private helicopter pilots. Under various pretexts and spurious reasons flight schools are disappearing from the map of the country one by one. Their extermination continues to this day. There is no question of helping the Institute to improve its work, and in fact SCAA does not have it as a goal. On the contrary, the Agency consciously destroys the pilot education system, without taking into consideration the law or appeal to common sense.

Now, four years after the beginning of the destructive campaign of SCAA, the Agency is already trying to establish a state monopoly on aviation education in the country. Who made this decision? And why? Is it really for safety concerns? It is most unlikely. The quality of training pilots will inevitably get worse without rivalry between aviation institutes.

There is a more logical reason. All state flight Institutes and colleges are under the authority of SCAA. Only the Agency distributes funds for the maintenance of flight schools, it also controls expenses. The government spends on preparation of each pilot from three to five million roubles (the price of a two-room apartment in the average Russian city). It is a considerable sum of money, especially in comparison with the amount that is taken by private flight schools. However, the financial situation of state institutes is called deplorable: poorly maintained equipment, buildings and dilapidated dormitories.

So, the question is: why should a person who has made a conscious choice to become a pilot to earn his living enter the state Institute? It will be much more expensive than training in a private flight school, and he will also have to live in uncomfortable conditions. One is left with no choice due to the closure of a more available and convenient college. State flight institutes are highly interested in money from those who want to fly. Unfortunately, their primary interest is rapid financial flow, not the people.

The quality of training in State Aviation Institutes

Well, the state flight Institutes are more expensive. But is it possible to get better education at state flight Institutes? Alas, this is not so. And aviation incidents, which have continued to happen in Ulyanovsk, Buguruslan and Sasovo flight colleges, are undoubted evidence of this. Sometimes equipment goes wrong and sometimes the cadet is recognized as the one responsible. There was an accident when two people died because of the drunken instructor.

There are other evidences of poor education, but they are known only to the pilot community. Students and graduates of the state colleges do not risk saying publicly that they did not perform solo and cross-country flights, did not fly at night. In the entire process of study they were denied these things for various reasons: either there were not enough aircraft, or the teachers were afraid of catastrophes. Theoretical training is also doubtful: students are still taught how to use the navigation ruler, which is no longer used, but the teachers forget to tell them how to submit a flight plan.

Every year, state flight Institutes report a few hundred pilots they have prepared. Why don’t Russian airlines have enough employees? Why are they forced to hire foreigner pilots? The fact is that not every graduate of the state colleges is able to pass a strict selection in the company. These graduates face real requirements for candidates and give up. In the meantime, their colleagues from the Chelyabinsk flight school easily pass skill tests and could get a job. However, this is not happening anymore.

The future is questioned

The situation in Russian aviation seems extremely bad. What will happen next? The question remains open. Now in the legal field there is a desperate struggle for the existence of a quality aviation education. On one side there are private flight schools, pilots’ community, Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, deputies, senators, government officials ... on the other side there is SCAA with its draconian methods, the Office of Transport and, unfortunately, the courts.

Russian judicial system and Russian Aviation are in deep crisis. In criminal law almost all sentences are guilty verdicts. Judges consider that their duty is to confirm the indictment made by the prosecutor. The same situation is in administrative justice: the judges don’t want to delve into the subject, to correlate facts and to study the documents. It is particularly true when there is a trial between an individual and the government. As a rule, the victory is awarded to the government.

The court cases of the pilots who are trying to regain their revoked licences are developing in the same way. Despite the obviously absurd claims of the SCAA, courts openly sided the government’s position. Sometimes the evidence presented by the representatives of the Agency sounds ridiculous. So, during one hearing, the SCAA lawyer demanded not to attach the official letter from the Ministry of Transport, certified by the signature of the official, because of the private opinion of the official.

The decisive process is ahead: on March 2nd, 2018. The Moscow City Court will hear an appeal of ten pilots who previously lost the SCAA in Babushkinsky court of Moscow. The first instance refused to recognize the cancellation order invalidate and to return their pilot licences. The hearing lasted just an hour and a half! The judge did not even bother to study the pilot’s diplomas, who had various reasons for obtaining diplomas. A lot of journalists, who sided with plaintiffs, came to the process and they were confident of the pilots victory. However, the judge was not ashamed of public attention and confirmed that to deprive people of their constitutional right without trial is normal.

The plaintiffs immediately prepared an appeal, and on March 2nd they are waiting for their victory or the death sentence to the future of Russian Aviation. This resonant case will undoubtedly become a model for similar processes throughout the country, this decision will determine not the fate of a few people but of a bigger number of people.

Real pilots cannot live without the sky. Undoubtedly, in the event of losing, they will move abroad to re-learn and get a job where there is no risk of losing their profession at someone's evil will. Also, there is no doubt that all pilots, whose qualifications allow them to look for a better place, will fly abroad. The situation in Russia shows that no one aviation specialist can feel secure. The experienced pilots will be replaced by youngsters, who graduated from the state colleges, where they were taught unnecessary disciplines and did not even perform independent flights. It is to be hoped that a decrease in the quality of aviation industry will not lead to serious catastrophes and mass casualties.

Last edited by Bumeranghc; 26th Feb 2018 at 04:33. Reason: corrected mistakes in dates and some details added
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Old 25th Feb 2018, 20:54
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We've heard murmurs of this but I never really understood what it entailed.
What a blow for all those airmen and in general private aviation In Russia. I hope they can find meaningful flying in another country.
I always wonder what a robust GA fleet and population could accomplish in the Russian Wilds, I envision bush flying like in Canada, Alaska or Australia.
For us Westerners I will quote Winston Churchill "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma..."
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Old 26th Feb 2018, 04:42
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This is human rights violation - just another case among a thousand. Many our russian colleagues went abroad already and found a job in foreign airlines. But in general aviation things are much worse.
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Old 26th Feb 2018, 17:38
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contact Ryanair

Couldn’t hurt.
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Old 28th Feb 2018, 08:26
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Any short summary of this? I dont get the rationale. Russia May be different from us, but never did I have the impression it was back to communism - quite the opposite, I found them to be extremely in favour of economic activity. And aviation is an industry, even one that might help their homegrown aircraft manufacturing - why wouldnt they want that.
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Old 1st Mar 2018, 20:56
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U.S. regionals are sponsoring visas for pilots if interested.
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Old 6th Mar 2018, 12:26
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Bumeranghc - you have excellent command of the english language. Do you actually live in Russia?

You have already convinced yourself that the future is bleak and wannabee russian pilots simply have to move abroad and fly elsewhere.
Leave the politicians to dwell on the future shortage when all have left Russia.

The rest of the world already know that Russia is a lost cause anyway - why would anyone want to live there in this day and age.
Move on - get a proper life somewhere else - anywhere else.

Thanks for the insight.
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