Russia intends to match Western safety standards and is making progress.
RUSSIA'S PROCESS of bringing its aviation into harmony with that of the West will, says Alexander Neradko, chief of the Accident Investigations division of Russia's Department of Air Transport (DAT), take "perhaps five years". In the meantime, says Neradko, "...we will be working with the current system".
It was in August 1994 that Russia established its programme to review the country's air-safety record. Five groups were set up to carry out the task, each one being given a specific area to investigate (Flight International, 17-23 January). The five subjects designated for investigation were aviation law, flight standards, continued airworthiness, air traffic and accident investigation.
Viktor Gorlov, deputy director and technical director of DAT, points out that the priority of the former USSR in airline safety and continued airworthiness "...was always to safety: economics were not as important". He admits, however that "...at the end of the Soviet Union, our industry was behind in the work to develop new, economically efficient airliners".
Gorlov adds: "In a weaker financial system, we scored notable successes, but as the new-technology Airbus and Boeing families began to enter service, we too needed a new generation of airliners. Work was progressing on aircraft like the Ilyushin Il-96 and the Tupolev Tu-204, but our industry had fallen behind. Now our airlines need such aircraft. But the fall in traffic, combined with Russia's economic crisis, means that they don't have the ability to replace their fleets."
He points out that, "...while the designs in current service may not be very young, there are still many flight hours or cycles left in them".
With this in mind, Russia is focusing on the need to improve maintenance to extend the lives of older aircraft.
Neradko says: "Throughout the 1980s, the Soviet level of flight safety was better than the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] average, and in most years, higher than that of the USA.
"With the end of the Soviet Union came a period of rapid national change, and a huge expansion in the number of airlines and operators. For this, we needed to change our systems. We quickly realised the importance of field inspections for civil aviation, and the importance of these inspectors having independence from the airlines - they have to be state employees. So we set about creating regional offices, or RDATs [regional Departments of Air Transport]. Now we have 245 inspectors working at major airports - they are on the staff of the head office - and over 1,300 more work with the RDATs. We need to double that number - our target is 3,000 - and we have asked the Government for funding to do this."
Gorlov says, that personnel licensing, has become a priority with the design bureaux and the DAT's GosNII GA (the research institute of civil aviation). Everyone working on an aircraft has to be properly licensed before they can do any maintenance work.
"Sudden, unexpected checks are now being carried out," Gorlov says. "These are followed by a flight-safety assessment report, which is sent to the appropriate RDAT and to the airline for follow-up."
Every six months, the GOSNII GA issues a report outlining the technical problems and safety-related materials for each type in service. "We issue Advice Directives [ADs] when necessary. While the Interstate Aviation Committee's Avia Register issues type certification, the DAT keeps an eye on subsequent matters".
The accident investigations division issues an analysis of flight safety in each category of aviation - scheduled/unscheduled, passenger, cargo, helicopter operations and, a new one for Russia, general aviation. There are now more than 9,000 aircraft on the Russian register and around 400 airlines. The division is beginning to assume responsibility for the DOSAAF (air force reserve units, which often undertake flight training and sports activities) and for sports and private flying.
Neradko points out that "...it took the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] many years to build up its systems of control - we have to do it almost overnight".
Gorlov says that the Soviet system had set an "economic", or service life of 20,000 to 30,000 flight hours - "perhaps half that of Western aircraft". Russia's overhaul sites have been used to examine the high-time aircraft of each type and found plenty of service life left. Just as many Western aircraft have had their service lives extended, "...so our aircraft are now having longer flight hours and cycles", says Neradko, who emphasises the importance of adequate maintenance. The DAT has worked with the industry, the airlines and a range of research bodies to evaluate what needs to be done, and it is now being done.
Some of these measures are already beginning to take effect, even though Russia has still to pass its new air code. Evgeni Lobachev, chief of the Air Transport Operators Certification division, says that his division, as the body responsible for airline certification, now applies all 17 ICAO annexes. "With 20 RDATs, we can keep close control on operators," he says.
Lobachev points out, that by the end of 1995, some 466 operators had been licensed in Russia, - 76 of these have now had their licences withdrawn as the Air Transport Operators Certification division was not satisfied with their standards. Sixty-two of these were total withdrawals and the other 14 will have to re-organise or amalgamate (a Russian legal phrase implying major corporate restructuring). Eighteen more operators will not be permitted to renew their licences. The standard set for the issue of operator's licences is also being tightened. The division is now aiming to inspect each operator quarterly. While some countries issue operator certificates for a period of several years, in Russia every operator has to renew its certificate once a year.
Lobachev adds, "Today we have 52 large airlines, that is with a fleet of ten or more airliners, with 30 or more passenger seats. Seventeen of these carry almost 75% of all our traffic."
Gorlov gives an example of the way in which a US-registered aircraft is operated in Russia. "Baikal Airlines, from Irkutsk, is operating Boeing 757s leased from International Lease Finance. As the airline has no technical personnel trained on the 757, it reached agreement with Israeli Aircraft Industries to support these aircraft." Gorlov says that the DAT technical staff went to IAI's plant in Tel Aviv, checked its base procedures, training and simulators and found that they met DAT standards. "So we approved IAI's work. Similarly we have approved such agreements with US and Hungarian facilities," he says.
Gorlov adds that the DAT is now working with the state standard institute to certificate all Russia's maintenance sites - overhaul centres and airline technical bases.
"When we have solved the question of our air code, we will begin to certificate foreign facilities planning to work on Russian registered aircraft," says Gorlov.
"Everyone working in the DAT and at the RDATs is very serious about the work involved in flight safety and in the harmonisation of standards, plus the adoption of international rules," Gorlov says, adding: "Our rules may not be exactly the same as those of other countries - we will cater for some relatively minor differences - but we aim to reach a point where Western experts can understand what we are doing and we can understand their work."
Source: Flight International