Chocks away for Russia’s light aircraft

Pilots of thousands of small planes across Russia may soon be relieved of the paperwork burden which has long weighed them down. A new law has lessened the bureaucratic load, easing the passage sky-wards.

­Still, much remains to be done to open up a golden age for Russia’s small aircraft enthusiasts.

Dozens of pilots wing their way across Russia for the second annual Kuban Air Show. For most of them, it is a perfect chance to meet other pilots and enjoy the beautiful southern scenery.

It took us almost eight hours to get here. But the views were fantastic!” one of them told RT.

In November last year, Russia adopted a new law for small aircraft pilots. It sounded very promising: abolishing much of the pre-flight paperwork, letting the pilots use new airfields and generally adopting international flight rules – a long-cherished dream for Russia’s plane-owners.

However, not all the old restrictions were lifted. Back in the Soviet times you actually had to have all the paperwork with you during the flight. That’s no longer necessary, but there are still some strict, and sometimes absurd, requirements for the pilots of small planes. For instance, even if the pilot and the mechanic are one and the same, a written dialogue still has to be maintained complete with recommendations from one to the other.

The new legislation allows for something called “notification mode.”  Instead of asking the authorities for permission to take off, in theory, the pilots can now use the internet to inform air traffic control of their plans. But in reality it rarely works.

“As you can see, there are many forbidden or restricted zones around Moscow, so it’s impossible for us to use notification mode anywhere within a 200-kilometer radius of the capital,” flight instructor Aleksandr Khotyashov explains.

Even with the new law, dozens of government organizations issue all sorts of contradictory instructions for pilots. It is a major disincentive for pilots to make the effort to take to the skies.

And that means that Russia is missing out on a potential pot of gold – while some countries, like the US, get billions of dollars from small aircraft fees and taxes, Russia does not get a cent.

“The current regulations are in chaos. And in that mess, we are losing around 500 billion roubles annually,” Yury Bordunov of the Independent Institute of International Law explains.

However, many pilots, like Vladimir Rogov, who attended this year’s Kuban Air Show, are optimistic about fighting bureaucracy.

“The new law was just the first tiny step. The rest of the world is ahead of us, but eventually we will learn how to fly again,” he said.

Russia’s small aviation enthusiasts have long felt that bureaucracy has served only to clip their wings. Now, their hopes are high of seeing blue sky on the horizon.

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