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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Explaining Russia's Unsafe Skies














UPI reports:

All seven people aboard a cargo plane died when it crashed near Moscow's Domodedovo's airport just after takeoff Sunday. The freight plane destined for Siberia lifted off the runway, flew two miles then crashed, bursting into flames, RIA Novosti reported. The plane belonged to the cargo airline Atran. It was built in 1964 and was to be retired in November. The plane's three flight recorders were found and the crash is under investigation, RIA Novosti said.

The International Herald Tribune outlines five key reasons why it isn't safe to fly on Russian airlines. Good luck, those of you who intend to fly from Moscow to Sochi for the 2014 Olympics. La Russophobe certainly won't be doing so (if you think the train might be better option, it's probably because you haven't been on a Russian train).

(1) TOO MANY AIRLINES: After the Soviet Union collapsed, state-owned Aeroflot splintered into 500 "babyflots," of which 182 remain. Smaller ones, struggling to survive, are more apt to cut corners on maintenance and safety. Fleets are aging; many airliners are of Soviet vintage or are bought secondhand from the West.

(2) COMPETITION: Is fierce, and many managements are so attentive to fuel costs that they fine pilots who abort flights or even landings, even when the pilot is acting out of concern for safety. Pilots are paid according to how many hours they are in the air, a practice that can exhaust them and impair their judgment.

(3) REGULATORY BODIES: Russia has five. Duties overlap and at least two both regulate airlines and investigate their crashes. Often the only conclusion they can agree upon is pilot error, leaving the deeper causes of a disaster unexplored.

(4) TRAINING AND SALARIES: State flight schools license pilots who have logged only 50 hours in the air, compared with 150 in the West. Instructors' salaries are low and trainees' food allowances are just 50 rubles (US$1.90 or €1.40) a day.

(5) LAWSUITS: Russian courts don't award large settlements to the relatives of crash victims. After one crash last year that killed all 170 people on board, the airline offered to pay just US$11,500 (about €8,600) for each fatality.

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