Russian Pilots Protesting Mass License Revocations

 - May 9, 2017, 11:54 AM

Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) has revoked hundreds of pilots' licenses and could nullify as many as 1,000 more in the near term in a campaign that eventually could see up to a quarter of all Russian pilots lose their flying privileges. The revocations would apply to pilots who received their training from non-governmental flight training centers previously approved by Rosaviatsiya.

The move is also seen as related to the fatal November 2013 crash of a Tatarstan Airlines 737 that killed all 50 aboard during a botched go-around. Subsequent investigation revealed the captain of that aircraft had not completed his primary flight training.

That triggered a crackdown on the non-government training centers by Rosaviatsiya, which the disenfranchised pilots claim is arbitrary and overreaching and has affected former military pilots, flight engineers, navigators and private pilots. They have appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for relief.

Rosaviatsiya alleges than some of these non-government schools cut corners and forged documents, thereby endangering public safety. A spokesman for the agency said approximately 400 licenses had been revoked to date and almost all due to forgery issues. He further said that the long-standing policy was that non-government schools could train only private pilots and that commercial pilots had to be trained at state schools.

However, Vladimir Tyurin of AOPA-Russia said that Rosaviatsiya had launched a program to encourage the formation of non-state aviation training schools (ATS) to deal with overcapacity problems exacerbated by the Russian pilot shortage at state institutions and that a substantial number of commercial flight engineers and navigators were retrained as commercial pilots at ATSs.

Alfred Malinovsky, vice president of the Russian flight crew trade union, said he suspects Rosaviatsiya knew what the ATSs were doing. Russia recorded a surge in general aviation accidents between 2015 and 2016 and its fatal commercial accident rate is four times greater that the global average.