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Russian government tells pilots to repair planes on their own to save on technicians

In Russia, pilots of regional flights are being told to carry out aircraft maintenance on their own, says Oleg Bocharov, deputy head of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Telegram channel Aviatorshchina reports.

“Together with the Ministry of Transport, we are to train and certify pilots as universal soldiers: they should act both as pilots and aircraft technicians at the same time. And the equipment must provide for the possibility of field repair operation,” Bocharov said.

According to him, first of all it concerns regional aviation pilots. They have been told to create “a fundamentally new system of maintaining airworthiness.”

This practice is being introduced to save money, said an anonymous aviation expert in an interview with The Insider.

“They want to save money on technicians so that only pilots who agree do a technician’s work part-time will need to be paid. There is such a practice in light aviation, but not in commercial aviation, which is in the business of transporting passengers for money. It is more common in general aviation (GA), where pilots fly for personal purposes (commercial passenger flights are prohibited in GA). Safety requirements are much lower in GA than in commercial aviation, so pilots there are able to train as technicians and maintain their aircraft. But pilots can't do all types of aircraft maintenance. They can do simple types of work, but not the complex ones.”

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is also working on marketing the small aircraft Baikal, which is scheduled for completion in 2023 in its basic configuration, the Ministry says. At the same time the Ministry says it has launched a series of efforts that will enable improvement of the aircraft in the course of its operation by effectively turning the plane into a designer set. Bocharov explained that in this way airlines together with pilots will be able to quickly upgrade the aircraft for a particular flight, “to transform it for cargo, cargo-passenger or passenger configuration.”

However, says the expert, the Baikal aircraft design utilizing a U.S.-made engine has not yet been completed, and there are no certified Russian engines for this class of aircraft. It is necessary to revive small aviation before pondering innovation:

“We simply do not have certified engines for this class of aircraft. And in practice, Russian engines are very high maintenance in their operation, just like the Zhiguli car from AvtoVAZ. So, this idea looks silly and ridiculous, considering the quality of Russian civil aircraft from the state aviation industry. Small aviation has been almost completely destroyed in Russia, and there aren't even any pilots, because there are only two state universities in the country that train them. There are no technicians either, because they have almost nothing to work on. Before we develop any innovations in the field of maintaining the airworthiness of small craft, we first need to revive small aviation and then think about innovations.”

Earlier it was reported that the Ministry of Industry and Trade planned to replace airline co-pilots with virtual ones in order to reduce operational costs. On August 9, the Ministry posted a notice to the portal of public procurements for a tender worth 2.9 billion rubles ($ 48,013,270.00) to develop such technology by the end of 2024. This is contrary to international rules of flight safety, according to which there should be at least two people in the cabin.

Russian airlines also recommended their pilots to use less brakes when landing and taxiing in order to prolong the operational life of Western airliners, parts for which are not supplied because of the sanctions. Sanctioned Russian airlines, including Aeroflot, have been dismantling planes to ensure a stock of spare parts they can no longer buy abroad.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, harsh sanctions were imposed on Russia, which also affected the aviation industry. The U.S. authorities banned exports for Russian airlines in April. Also, the European Union Flight Safety Committee put Aeroflot and a number of other Russian airlines on the list of carriers that are banned or restricted from flying within the EU. In April it was reported that Russian airlines operating domestic aircraft Sukhoi Superjet 100 cannot repair and maintain the Russian-French SaM146 engines.

Later, both the EU and Britain and the U.S. Treasury relaxed the sanctions on civil aviation products. The U.S. made some relaxations for transactions involving the supply or export of goods, technologies or services for civil aviation security. A prerequisite for such transactions is the registration of civil aviation-only aircraft outside Russia. The EU Council specified that interaction with Russia regarding aviation goods and services would be allowed to the extent required to meet safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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