The recent tragic accident of Boeing 737 in Kazan, Russia has once again raised discussions over the current situation in the Russian aviation industry. As the reasons for the crash are yet to be revealed, many are questioning whether the industry has done everything it can to minimize the threat of such deadly accidents. One of the most topical issues within both professional and public circles – the shortage of experienced personnel as one of the main factors influencing the safety of local air transportation market.
According to experts, currently each year approx. 600-700 of Russian pilots are leaving the market due to retirement age and other factors. In the meantime, training organizations are able to prepare only around 400 pilots thus enlarging the already existing gap of around 1000 pilots with an additional few hundreds of specialists.
“We could trace the roots of the existing shortage of aviation professionals in Russia today back to 1990s. Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union two factors have predetermined the alarming situation. First of all, a major downturn in air transportation in Russia forced hundreds of pilots to leave cockpits and requalify as specialists in other industries. Secondly, the general popularity of aviation professions dropped and they became associated with poor career prospects and unsatisfying pay (in certain extreme cases – no pay at all). The crises had lasted for almost a decade, until the aviation industry started reviving in the beginning of the millennium, along with the rise of the entire Russian economy,” commented Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO of AviationCV.com.
However, despite the favourable market conditions, the industry wasn’t expecting such a rapid progression in the growth of demand. According to a Russian research company “Region”, back in 2000 Russian airlines carried just slightly over 20 million passengers. But only eight years later the figures more than doubled, and in 2012 the Russian aviation market already boasted almost 75 million of passengers.
According to Skaiste Knyzaite, at the beginning local carriers were able to satisfy the growing demand with their own capabilities and market reserves such as Soviet aircraft and military pilots. However, today this alternative source of aviation specialists has been exhausted. Eventually, flight engineers and aircraft navigators also started re-training to become pilots.
“Becoming a skilful pilot requires time, knowledge and experience. Becoming a Captain – twice of that. Today Russia has a set of well-established pilot training schools, but their capabilities cannot be stretched enough to satisfy the domestic demand. That is why Russia needs to consider the possibility to open the market to more training organizations with both European experience and modern technical capabilities required to support the preparation of the new generation of pilots.
Meanwhile, although the number of commercial pilots is rising each year, it still takes additional 2-3 years before an FO becomes a Captain. That is why the intention of authorities to allow foreign pilots to operate Russian carriers’ aircraft must be implemented in practice as soon as possible. Moreover, the proposed quotas should be increased so that smaller regional airlines could also gain access to more experienced and yet less expensive personnel from outside the country. Currently, in Europe alone there are at least 4 thousand of jobless pilots. Many of them speak Russian, as they come from Central and Eastern European countries. In other words, we believe that certain changes should and will be done in the system of Russian aviation as a whole, and hope that such changes will eventually bring aviation safety risks in the country to a minimum,” commented the CEO of AviationCV.com.