Russian Transport Chief Asks Govt to Speed Up Foreign-Pilot Law

GORKI, Moscow Region, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s transport minister asked the government Wednesday to speed up legislation allowing Russian airlines, plagued by pilot shortages, to hire foreign staff.

“We are asking now that the resolution of this issue be sped up, along with its approval under established procedure and the submission of a corresponding bill to the State Duma,” Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said at a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The ministry proposes a five-year pilot project that would involve annually hiring some 200 foreign nationals as pilots of Russian airlines, Sokolov said. He said a bill to accommodate the plan had been drafted and passed muster at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.

Sokolov expressed the hope that pilots from Europe and the United States would be attracted by the Russian job offer, as pilots’ wages in Russia had become competitive, reaching 500,000 rubles ($16,250) a month, or about $195,000 a year.

Medvedev noted that working conditions for pilots in Russia have their own twists, though it was not clear what exactly he meant. “Will they be able to [work here]?” Medvedev asked Sokolov.

The prime minister also suggested holding more consultations with Russia’s air carriers before a final decision on the proposed legislation can be made.

The proposal to hire foreign pilots for Russian airlines has drawn a cool response from Medvedev’s predecessor, current President Vladimir Putin, in the past. When airlines raised the idea two years ago, Putin responded that they should not be hiring “skilled labor” but “trainers and teachers to prepare our pilots.”

Experts have noted that Russia’s flight schools are not producing sufficient numbers of young pilots. According to some estimates, Russia’s state-run training system produces an average of 650 pilots over the course of three years, falling well short of demand., a website matching potential candidates to jobs in the aviation sector, wrote last month that Russia needs some 1,000 to 2,000 new pilots each year, citing unnamed “industry experts.”


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