Russia is to overhaul its civil aviation training system in an effort to cope with a looming aircrew shortage crisis.

The country needs at least 700-800 pilots a year, according to Yevgeny Bachurin, the head of Russian air transport agency Rosaviatsiya.

"Pilots are leaving due to age, and we're not training enough to replace them," Bachurin said at the Ulyanov state civil aviation academy on 18 June. "In 1990 in the Soviet era we trained 1,300 a year, and now we train only about 230," Bachurin said.

"We have calculated that if nothing is done, by 2015 we will have a deficit of around 8,000 pilots."

Meanwhile, civil aviation in Russia grew 18.5% in 2007, carrying 45 million passengers, according to Bachurin.

The Ulyanovsk academy is to ramp up training to 300-400 pilots a year from 150 in an effort to alleviate the problem.

The existing state pilot training system, which dates to the Soviet era, will also be overhauled. Pilots now undergo a five-year training course with extensive technical training.

This will be changed to a four-year theory course with a one- to one-and-a-half year flying training course, the content of which will be updated, Bachurin said.

Civil aviation is to set up a sponsors' council including representatives of the airlines, federal bodies and regional administrations to assist the Ulyanov academy, he added.

Last year, Russia's biggest airline Aeroflot announced plans to set up its own training school in 2009 in response to the aircrew shortage crisis.

Source: Flight International