Civil aviation in the turmoil of changes and problems

By Victor Filippov,

Managing Director of the Kryl’ya Rodiny Interdepartmental Air Navigation Services Centre,

Merited Navigator of the Russian Federation

The sky has always attracted Man. The myth about Icarus, tentative designs evolved by Leonardo da Vinci, fantastic projects developed by scientists of the 19th century – all this bears witness to the fact that mankind has always dreamed of a pair of wings that would enable a man to soar high above the ground. Such dreamers were called madmen. They sacrificed their life for the sake of realising their dream, keeping faith in their idea up to the last second. Nowadays a great technological breakthrough has taken place in the field of aviation, and we do not see anything fantastic in the fact that huge machines made of metal take to the air every minute all over the world. We are not at all surprised by the fact that some people design these giants, or service them and ensure their safety. However, we must admit that there are people for whom aviation is not only their job. Like those “madmen” of the past, they are also infinitely devoted to their idea. It is precisely the existence of such champions of their cause that prompts the wish on the occasion of this remarkable event – the 90-year jubilee of the Russian civil aviation – to raise the glasses and say a heartfelt “thank you” to these people for remaining faithful to their dream despite the various political, social or economical cataclysms that, unfortunately, afflict our Motherland now and then.

At present civil aviation is one of the most promising branches of the economy of our country. However, there is a multitude of nuances fraught with problems that cannot be ignored. On the occasion of the 90-year jubilee of the Russian civil aviation we have decided to discuss some of these problems. Specialists of the Kryl’ya Rodiny (Wings of the Motherland) Interdepartmental Air Navigation Services Centre resemble very much those “madmen” of the past, being deeply concerned with the destinies of the country’s aviation. Yuriy Fomin, deputy Director of our Centre’s branch in the Volga region and honorary worker of Russia’s air navigation, describes the present situation regarding the management of air traffic in our country.

Management of the use of airspace (UASP) is a multi-faceted activity which requires constant attention, monitoring and timely introduction of corrections in order to ensure flight safety coupled with the utmost efficiency in the use of airspace (ASP) in the interests of all ministries and agencies for the purpose of ensuring the country’s defence potential and solving the tasks of the national economy.

Way back in the early 1970s, the growth of the density of air traffic led to a sharp increase of the number of dangerous near misses and collisions of aircraft in the air.

Being disturbed by this situation in the country, the Government issued a Resolution dated 16/02/1973 “On measures intended to enhance flight safety of the civil aviation”. Implementing this resolution, military and civil specialists came to a decision that proved to be eminently correct - they established the Unified Control System which could ensure interaction of aviation elements of all the ministries and agencies in peacetime and in wartime.

The Unified Air Traffic Control System (UATCS) comprised appropriate military and civil bodies set up by the Government, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Civil Aviation which functioned on the basis of a single legal base and a clear-cut distribution of responsibility for the management of the use of airspace.

The Unified System comprised bodies charged with the functions of coordination, control and operation.

The coordinating bodies within the Unified system were the Interdepartmental commission on the use of the airspace of the Russian Federation set up by the government of the Russian Federation, and its territorial bodies – zonal interdepartmental commissions on the use of airspace which were set up by the chairman of the Interdepartmental commission on the use of airspace of the Russian Federation who was responsible for the management of the use of airspace in a given region.

Governing bodies of the Unified System were set up by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and by the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the purpose of exercising the functions of implementation, authorisation and monitoring in the field of organisation of the use of airspace (within the bounds of their competence), as well as of guiding the activities of the military and civil bodies of the Unified System.

Operational bodies of the Unified System were set up by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the purpose of ensuring the establishment of the structure of the airspace, the maintenance of the authorisation principle, the planning and coordination of its use, the air traffic management and monitoring the observance of the Federal rules of the use of airspace. These functions were performed by the Centres of the Unified Air Traffic Management System (UATMS); the Centres comprised a military and a civil section.

Between 1973 and 1977 such Centres were established on the European territory of the Soviet Union, and between 1978 and 1984 – on the entire territory of the country. As a result, the following bodies were established: 1 Main Centre for the country, 13 Zonal Centres, 7 Auxiliary Zonal Centres, 101 Area Centres and 66 Auxiliary Area Centres.

Virtually all the Centres were staffed by civil and military specialists. Some few Centres in which the intensity of the flights of the State aviation was low were staffed only by civil specialists authorised to perform control in the space beyond air routes. (Editor’s note: State aviation, as defined by Russia’s Air Code, comprises aviation employed for performing state functions such as defence, internal security, law enforcement, customs, space activities, civil defence, protection from natural disasters etc., as distinct from the other two branches – civil aviation and experimental aviation).

The practice was established of retraining military specialists in the Ulyanovsk Civil Aviation Academy. After graduating this academy, military specialists received authorisation for performing the traffic control at air routes.

Commanding staff of the Centres, both civil and military, received training at the skill improvement faculty of the Leningrad Civil Aviation Academy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the composition of the Unified Air Traffic Control System was considerably reduced. On 18 June 1998 the Government of the Russian Federation adopted Resolution No. 605 entitled “On state control and organization of the utilization of airspace of the Russian Federation”. This document endorsed Regulations on the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation (UATMS), which determined the functions, composition, powers and responsibility of appropriate bodies with due regard to the situation which had arisen by that time.

The onset of the period of reduction of the Armed Forces caused disruption in the entire well-established structure for organising the interaction in the flight activities of State aviation and civil aviation. The military sections of the Centres were reduced or disbanded, and the military specialists were dismissed.

The end of 2007 saw the beginning of the process of forming a new body – the Rosaeronavigatsiya (Federal Air Navigation Service of the Russian Federation) which became a specially authorised Federal body of executive power, charged with the functions of conducting the state policy and performing the legal regulation, monitoring and supervision , as well as he rendering of state services and management of state property in the sphere of use of airspace of the Russian Federation, air navigation catering for the users of airspace of the Russian Federation and the aerospace search and rescue activities. Operational bodies of the Unified System were withdrawn from the structure of Rosaviatsiya (Federal Air Transport Agency of the Russian Federation) and incorporated into the structure of Rosaeronavigstsiya. At last, the time came when those who perform air traffic control and monitors the observance of Federal rules of the use of airspace ceased to be subordinated to the users of airspace who perform the activities associated with the use of airspace.

Having lost control over the Rosaeronavigatsiya, in 2009 the leaders of the Ministry of Transport and of the civil aviation succeeded in persuading the President and the Government to make a step back, to abolish the Rosaeronavigatsiya as a separate entity and to incorporate it into the Rosaviatsiya, that is to say, into the Ministry of Transport.

Thus, in April 2009 the Rosaeronavigatsiya was “sentenced” to liquidation even before it had had a chance to “start flying”.

On 14 April the Prime-TASS news agency reported: “The merger of the Rosaviatsiya and Rosaeronavigatsiya is planned for this year”. This was announced by the Minister of Transport Igor Levitin at today’s meeting on the programme of development of transport infrastructure in 2009 and on anti-crisis measures in the transport complex of Saint Petersburg.

He noted, in particular, that “this year it is planned to conduct a merger of the Rosaviatsiya and Rosaeronavigatsiya in order to create a unified body for the control of the civil aviation”.

Those who were creating a “unified body for the control of the civil aviation” appear to have completely ignored the fact that aviation in Russia did not consist of civil aviation alone.

On 11th September 2009 the President of the Russian Federation issued Decree No. 1003 “On measures for the improvement of state regulation in the field of aviation” the first lines of which were worded as follows:

“With a view to perfecting the system of state regulation in the field of aviation I decree:

1. The Federal Air Navigation Service is abolished.

2. The functions of the abolished Federal Air Navigation Service are transferred to the Federal Air Transport Agency”.

One may wonder, what comment would have been provoked by an idea to abolish the State Inspection for Road Traffic Safety which performs special monitoring, supervision and authorisation functions in the field of ensuring the road traffic safety, and to incorporate this organization into the structure of the Rosavtotrans (Road Transport Agency under the Ministry of Transport), that is, into the selfsame Ministry of Transport?! A crazy idea! But why did this idea get an approval in aviation? Why did our country, by creating a “unified body for the control of the civil aviation”, slide back to the level of the 1960s?

The process of the establishment of the Rosdaeronavigatsiya coincided with the reduction of the Armed Forces. The military sections of the Centres were simply disbanded; this bore witness to a complete lack of understanding of their importance for flight safety and for interaction in the organisation of air traffic.

By mid-2008 all the Centres in the country functioned in the single-section mode. Interaction in the organisation of flights of the State aviation and the civil aviation worsened considerably. Communication channels between military and civil bodies for flight control were eliminated, often without due consideration and good reason. The structure of the Unified Air Traffic Management System (UATMS) came to be based on a single element.

By now, the Centres have been working in this mode for five years. To this day the basic document is the Regulations on the operational bodies (Centres) of the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation. This document was endorsed by the joint Order of the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation No. 482/156, issued on 7th December 2002 and entitled “On the endorsement of Regulations on operative bodies (centres) of the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation”. The document was registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation on 12th February 2002, registration No. 4215.

The Regulations define the mission, structure, tasks and functions of the Centres of the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation, as well as the rights and obligations of the chiefs (leaders) of the military and civil sections of the Centers on the questions of organizing the utilization of airspace.

How can one work under the present conditions on the basis of a document which no longer corresponds to the reality? On what grounds did the redistribution of tasks and functions take place, and what additional rights and obligations were assumed by chiefs of the civil sections of the Centres on the questions of managing the use of airspace?

Regulations “On the unified air traffic management system of the Russian Federation”, endorsed by the Resolution No.605, dated 18th June 1998, of the Government of the Russian Federation (as amended by the Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 767, dated 14.12.2006) does not correspond to reality either. The Interdepartmental Commission on the Use of Airspace of the Russian Federation and similar interdepartmental commissions for different areas of the country no longer exist.

Likewise eliminated were the Governing bodies of the Unified System which had been set up by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation for the purpose of performing executive, authorisation and monitoring functions in the field of managing the use of airspace, and for ensuring the control of activities of the military bodies within the Unified System. Nevertheless, the document in question still retains its validity.

One is tempted to call the Draft regulations on the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation – a draft on the sole Air Traffic Management System. Judging by the draft, the country has neither the State aviation, nor the experimental aviation. This draft is not concerned with the questions of interaction. Why are we returning into the 1960s as regards the organisation of use of airspace?

When the decision on the merger was adopted, one of the arguments in favour of this action was the period of crisis which had a noticeable negative effect on the Rosaeronavigatsiya. The volume of air traffic decreased, resulting in a 20-per cent fall of revenue. The merger of the two agencies was expected to provide means or rendering financial support to the Rosaeronavigatsiya. But a decline in the air traffic volume affects the air carriers first and foremost, so what sort of support is feasible?

It was also asserted that operational bodies of the Rosaeronavigatsiya were not interested in increasing the intensity of air traffic. But this argument is unfounded, too, because the revenue, development and wages of the staff of the Rosaeronavigatsiya depend on the intensity of flights.

At present insufficient attention is given to providing air navigation information to users of airspace, as well as to the operational bodies engaged in the Air Traffic Management, especially the Territorial bodies of the Rosaviatsiya. At present territorial bodies of Rosaviarsiya are not provided with air navigation information services. The state-run Centre of Air Navigation Information of Civil Aviation is fully responsible for providing air navigation information to all aviation structures in Russia. However, in a country of as vast dimensions as our Russia it is simply impossible to tackle this tremendous task from Moscow alone, without creating territorial branches.

One gets the impression that financial support was needed not for the Rosaeronavigatiya but rather for the other party concerned. Otherwise the Rosaviatsiya and the Ministry of Transport would have paid attention to the unhealthy state of the legal basis for the air traffic management.

One must never forget the vast amount of experience accumulated during the years of the past.

We have an extremely well trained corps of civil aviation dispatchers; this makes it possible to reinstate the Unified Air Traffic Management System involving the participation of military specialists, as well as specialists from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry for Emergency Situations. Availability of modern control and communications equipment makes it possible to create an excellent system of air traffic control in Russia which would meet the requirements of both peacetime and wartime and fully ensure the efficiency, regularity and safety of air traffic; the interaction with all the users of airspace would also be reinstated.

Yevgeniy Turovtsev, commercial director of the Centre, joins Yuriy Fomin and recounts the questions which the specialists of the Kryl’ya Rodiny Centre also have to deal with. Along with the development of aviation and of the country in general these questions become more and more acute, calling for appropriate measures from the Ministry of Transport.

We live in a country which may well be described as the most surprising country in the world, a country in which, as is well known, the severity of laws is compensated by the lack of their strict enforcement.

Time and again the President and the Prime-Minister of the Russian Federation come out with appeals for a comprehensive development of local air services, for a speedy introduction of such a means of transport as air taxi services, into the infrastructure of large cities. Yet, these appeals remain unheeded. Within the entire territory of Russia there is not a single officially registered helicopter landing pad on the roof of a multi-storey building. This does not depend on the wish (or lack of same) of construction enterprises or companies operating commercially local air services to build landing pads and perform flights from them. No, the stumbling block is the attitude of the officials of Rosaviatsiya who have the powers to permit or refuse to permit the registration of such pads.

Seemingly, all the prerequisites are on hand. They include the Order No. 69 on the procedures for working out the rules and instructions for flights of that sort, and the mandatory requirements adopted in all large cities with regard to city construction norms. They stipulate the mandatory construction of helicopter landing pads on the roofs of buildings, one pad being necessary for every complete or incomplete 1,000 sq. m of the building’s roof.

One can build a landing pad. But, gentlemen, try to register this landing pad in the appropriate administrative bodies empowered to issue permissions. You will get involved into a struggle between common sense and laws. Everybody has roughly the same idea of what “common sense” is, but as for the laws – every “self-respecting” official interprets them in his own way.

Rosaviatsiya agencies in different constituent parts of the Russian Federation can refuse to register landing pads of this kind, citing the insufficient guarantees of flight safety; there are numerous examples of this. The authorities stubbornly say “no” because this helps avoid any risk.

Yet, the aircraft operated, for example, by the Ministry of Interior, the Federal Guarding Service and the like, perform flights above cities without any measures ensuring safety (availability of reserve emergency landing sites, the use of strictly defined routes for such flights etc.). Into the bargain, such flights are performed with heavy helicopters.

The level of technical perfection of modern twin-engined helicopters is sufficiently high to ensure full safety of flights and to guarantee a happy end of the flight, given the duly high level of crew training. All over the world such flights are performed without problems and are widely practised, being a source of revenue for various interested entities and making a given city more attractive for business activities.

In practical terms, the following situation has arisen. One can register a landing pad and obtain an official permission for its operation in appropriate administrative bodies only after the pad has been built and provided with various kinds of auxiliary equipment. This means that one has initially to invest a huge amount of money for the geological survey, design work, preparation of the pad’s air navigation certificate etc. All this completed, one risks being politely notified that flights from this pad cannot be allowed due to the lack of safety. This refusal cannot be overruled by any orders, documents or calculations.

Under these circumstances construction enterprises build multi-storey houses, avoiding trouble and disregarding the above-mentioned stipulations of the construction regulations. But the landing pads are important in many respects, such as fire fighting, urgent medical services and just the enhancement of the development of large cities.

At present the solution of this situation can be visualised as follows.

Projecting of the construction of a given building must be conducted strictly in conformity with the valid legislation; it must be accompanied by performing well in advance the whole set of measures designed to evaluate the feasibility and the safety of operating the landing pad. If the evaluation result is positive, the air navigation certificate must be prepared and duly registered without waiting for the end of the construction work. As for the actual operation of flights – it is never late to impose a ban.

The second important question with which we are regularly faced is the conduct of procedures associated with the authorisation of the planned construction of high buildings, various masts for radio communication etc., and the determination of their influence on the flight safety.

The Air Code of the Russian Federation and the Federal rules for the use of Russia’s airspace establish the necessity to obtain approval for the construction of high buildings and other high installations from various civil aviation authorities. I have already noted that officials refuse to read any laws existing in the Russian Federation except the laws which are to their taste. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union private property has made its appearance. Rosaviatsiya specialists, formally acting in accordance with the stipulations of the Air Code of the Russian Federation and the Federal rules for the use of Russia’s airspace, re-direct the organisations seeking permission for construction to an appropriate local senior aviation authority. But in actual fact they deal in concert with a specific commercial structure because now most of the civil airports in Russia are privately owned. Authorisation procedures in such airports acquire the character of a purely commercial affair and have nothing to do with flight safety. I think this gives enough food for thought to the Russian Federation’s Antimonopoly Service; besides, this situation creates ample possibilities for corruption. Local branches of Rosaviatsiya and civil aviation airports have evolved quite unthinkable requirements regarding the documents to be submitted, they misappropriate the powers of state appraisal bodies (in contravention of the construction legislation) and of the bodies of the Ministry of Communications (in contravention of the Law on communications). At present the Ministry of Transport is engaged in working out unified requirements concerning the documents which are to be submitted for obtaining approval for construction. However, the need appears to be ripe already for adapting the legislative base to the present-day realities; this should be done in coordination with the appropriate interested ministries.

Thus, it is obvious that the Russian civil aviation is celebrating its 90-year jubilee amidst a whole lot of problems. The problems are not confined to those we have mentioned. One can note, furthermore, the shortage of Russian-built aircraft, the attempts to invite foreigners to work as pilots in Russian airlines, etc. However, we are honest in our conviction that Russia, in spite of all this, will rank among the greatest aviation powers of the planet. Russian aviators have always been noted for their true devotion to their cause and their utmost professionalism. It is to these specialists that we address our heartfelt congratulations with this great jubilee; we wish them good health, patience and success in their arduous work. Our wish for the aircrews is that the number of take-offs and the number of landings should coincide, and for the management – that the preparation of administrative documents should be conducted with due regard to the opinion of professionals.