Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

Russia's military has been charged with taking overall control of civil aviation safety oversight and accident investigation in a new presidential decree.

President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 10 August, transferring responsibility for the flight safety of Russia's civil airlines to the Ministry of Defence.

The reasoning behind Yeltsin's action is that Russia is said to need a single centre for all aviation oversight, given the overlaps between civil and military flying, and that the role could not be fulfilled by a civilian body.

The move appears to be a set-back for the the Federal Aviation Service (FAS), the administration which has responsibility for civil aviation regulation and control, but which will now have to report to the defence ministry.

Both the FAS and the Ministry of Economics, which has responsibility for the aerospace industry, are instructed to render "all necessary assistance" to the defence ministry. A period of six months has been established for the decree's implementation.

The FAS has taken much tougher action in monitoring safety since the Aeroflot Airbus Industrie A310-300 accident in March 1994, and there had been a considerable drop in accidents and incidents.

Safety has again became a major issue, however, with the crash of Russian air force Antonov An-124 in a residential area of Irkutsk last December. This military operated aircraft was flying a commercial cargo mission, which is not uncommon in Russia.

While the FAS monitors airlines, it has no responsibility for the safety of military aircraft, even when they carry commercial loads. It also has little control over the aircraft manufacturing companies which often operate these assigned aircraft on commercial flights.

The new decree is intended to provide a supervisory structure to oversee all aviation safety matters. It also calls for accident and incident investigations to be completed within four months.

Source: Flight International