Retaliatory moves threatened against European airlines flying to Russia and on trans-Siberian overflights

Russia's civil aviation authority, the GSGA, met with the European Commission in early December in an effort to break new ground in the dispute about Russian aircraft operations in Europe after the Chapter 3 noise legislation takes effect in April.

The GSGA offered to reduce its request for 386 non-compliant aircraft to be exempted to just over 100 that will be specified by registration and operator.

However, the Commission told the Russian delegation that while it is willing to find a compromise, the number proposed is still much too high and asked the GSGA to return to the table with more acceptable proposals.

Russia has threatened to match limitations on Russian aircraft operations in Europe with a ceiling on European airline operations in Russia, claiming that this is allowed by bilateral agreements between Russia and EC member states. It could also restrict overflights on trans-Siberian routes.

The EC is willing to allow operations, under agreement, of Chapter 2 cargo aircraft to certain airports located away from major population centres, but flights to major airports by non-compliant aircraft will be discouraged. The EC claims that the recent International Civil Aviation Organisation resolution on the issue applies to developing countries and that Russia does not fall into this category.

Russia claims that the new noise restrictions will cause considerable damage to its aviation industry. Some 630 Russian aircraft will not meet the Chapter 3 noise requirements, resulting in the loss of three million passengers from a total of around 22 million a year, according to the Russian transport ministry.

These figures are misleading since they represent the number of aircraft that could fly to Europe, not the amount that actually fly regularly, says the UK-based Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), which comprises 270 environmental and consumer organisations across Europe and enjoys observer status at the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). The group says an ECAC meeting last month in Oslo showed unity in Europe against compromises on this issue, but AEF remains worried about an unsatisfactory solution.

"There will be some retaliation but I think that as with the EU-US hushkit confrontation, the case will likely go before ICAO for resolution," it says. While it would welcome such a move, which could take up to three years to reach a conclusion, the ban should go ahead. AEF fears, however, "some kind of technical fix" as Russia seeks a phasing-out approach.

AEF says Europe should also look more carefully at two other key weaknesses in the Russian aviation industry - the lack of traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS) and failure to comply with reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) requirements - that raise questions about the safety of European airlines operating in the country.

Source: Flight International