Chapter 3 noise regulations will outlaw a clutch of aircraft from April including Ilyushin Il-86 and Tupolev Tu-134

Russian aviation authorities failed to reach a compromise with the European Commission (EC) during the latest round of negotiations in Brussels last month on the operation of noisy Russian airliners into the European Union from April.

The Russian delegation, headed by transport minister Sergei Frank and head of the state service of Civil Aviation Aleksandr Neradko, presented a letter from Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov to EC president Romano Prodi asking for assistance in resolving the long-negotiated problem.

Only 650 of Russia's 2,500 airworthy civil airliners are compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation Chapter 3 noise legislation which takes effect on 1 April. The ban will close European skies to the Ilyushin Il-62 and Il-86, and Tupolev Tu-134 and Tu-154B. Last year, Russian airlines flew nearly 4,000 scheduled flights and 2,500 charters to EU destinations using these types, carrying 700,000 and 600,000 passengers respectively.

"Outlawing the Il-86 and Tu-134 will hurt many regular and charter airlines," says deputy transport minister Pavel Rozhkov.

The only compliant passenger types are the 30-seat Yakovlev Yak-40 and modified Tu-154Ms and Yak-42Ds. However, many operators of the latter two will be affected, as most have not been fitted with the required noise-attenuation modifications - which cost around $100-200,000 per aircraft.

Last year, Russian cargo airlines operated 440 flights to the EU with the Ilyushin Il-76. They will have to make major modifications to keep operating the type after 1 April.

The Russians have proposed various measures to permit continued operations of non-compliant aircraft, such as restricting flights to secondary airports and a temporary clearance for particular airframes. So far, these initiatives have been rejected by the EC.

Rozhkov says that Europe has been warned that its non-flexibility could result in Russian retaliation. "We have outlined what they could expect in return, but are hoping for a compromise agreement," he says.

Russia might attempt to totally revise the earlier agreed frequencies between Russian and European airports as forcing Russian airlines to fly only Chapter 3-compliant aircraft to the EU will require radical changes in the summer timetable, which takes effect on 26 March. Rozhkov adds that it is is not always possible to replace one widebody Il-86 with two narrowbody Tu-154Ms due to the limitations on slots and frequencies, while a ban on the Tu-134 will force many airlines to terminate services to the EU in winter, as there is no similarly-sized Russian aircraft available. Changes to Russian airlines' timetables will have a knock-on effect on European airlines schedules as interstate agreements demand equal terms for both sides.

Source: Flight International