Outdated maps and dismantled aircraft: an Aeroflot pilot’s confession about his work during the war

On the attitude of the management and employees of Aeroflot to the war

The leadership of the flight service does not have an official position on the ongoing events. De facto, at technical meetings, the rhetoric "enemy equipment", "enemy software" is used. There was also no meeting with the flight crew. Everything is just hearsay. Dry information comes about the re-registration of aircraft, how to fly with an expired navigation base, and so on.

As for the mood of the pilots, here, as in society, there is also division. There is a very correct indication that in the cockpit no political, let alone military issues can be discussed at all, because safety is above all. By the way, recently in Tyumen two pilots of Utair helicopters got into a fight during their "retirement" (this is the time of rest after which the pilots continue their route) because of the difference in views on the war.

A large layer of people believes: “We survived the 90s, and now we will survive, it will be a little difficult for half a year.” Personally, I think that this is all very bad and Russia has put itself in a situation that will be disentangled for many generations. Unfortunately, aviation is no exception.

About cuts and closures of airlines

Many companies have closed completely - for example, AirBridgeCargo. They started with co-pilots - first they sent them on vacation, then on unpaid vacations, then they fired them. They fired more or less, that is, they paid two salaries according to the law. Another issue is that the pilot's salary is a very small part of his income. Basically, he is paid for the raid - accordingly, upon dismissal, the company pays just two small salaries and vacation debt.

Some companies have made partial layoffs. But Aeroflot, apparently, just like during the lockdown, received a lot of money from the state to "support the pants." During the lockdown, as far as I know, there was a condition to keep at least 90% of the staff - and here it is. Therefore, so far no one has been laid off, and those who leave on their own fit into these 10%.

About employment abroad

It is difficult for pilots to find work abroad now. Firstly, in many countries, in order to fly, you need to have citizenship or at least a residence permit. There are countries such as China, Vietnam, where this is not necessary, but still there are a lot of conditions. It was hard to get a job there even in peacetime, and even more so now. Plus, the traffic volumes of Vietnamese airlines are not comparable with the volumes of all Russian airlines, so the vacancies that were there, I think, have long been closed. In 2019, when many tried to leave for China, the Federal Air Transport Agency - and in fact our Ministry of Transport - did not confirm to the pilots their licenses for other countries. This, of course, was a brutal violation. Now, as far as I understand, they sometimes confirm, because they don’t care - there are so many pilots that why not.

On aircraft maintenance and shortages of spare parts

Maintenance is the simplest - when the oil level in the engines is simply assessed. Once in a certain number of days, the pressure in the wheels is checked: if it deviates from the standards, the wheels are pumped up. And once every six years, the aircraft is almost completely disassembled and evaluated. Imagine: literally one skeleton remains from the ship and then it is reassembled using, where necessary, new spare parts.

We in Russia know how to carry out this form of maintenance - for example, in Siberia Airlines it has been carried out for quite a long time on their technical base, and in Aeroflot too. Another question is what not everyone did there and in insufficient volumes - they did not have time to service all the aircraft that required it on their own, and the rest most often “drove” to Europe. Now all this is gone, but aircraft are used much less than before the war.

Purely theoretically, we can carry out regular maintenance ourselves. But if there is damage, problems can arise. For example, a few years ago in Kaliningrad, one plane was badly damaged, then the French came and repaired it. The repair was extensive, but the aircraft was restored, and after that it was flown many times.

Purely theoretically, we can carry out regular maintenance ourselves. But if there is damage, problems may arise.

But a much more important question is what parts will change for. There are parts of the aircraft that change in time, and there are - in condition. The director of Aeroflot's department for spare parts recently reported that there is enough of everything so far, but for some parts that are missing, they have already begun to dismantle two aircraft. The A320 fleet at Aeroflot is about 100 pieces. Of these, about half are flying now - probably simply because the rest are not needed now: they are in storage.

It is purely technically possible to transfer a spare part from one aircraft to another. As long as there are enough donor aircraft, maintenance will be maintained. The situation for aviation is difficult, but the planes will still be able to fly for a long time. If you use only half of the park, then you don’t need more. Well, where else to fly, if 60% of our flights were abroad?

Now there are about 40% of destinations left, and even then the prices are inflated, people are not particularly ready to fly. Therefore, the process of "undressing" some aircraft so that others can fly can take a long time. It's hard to say how many, maybe a year: sooner or later something will end anyway. Small parts first, then bigger ones. But everything will fly if they decide to buy spare parts at exorbitant prices through China.

The situation for aviation is difficult, but the planes will still be able to fly for a long time

Now for the pilots, the navigational problem arises in the first place. Throughout the world, navigation is a living organism. Something is constantly changing, some radio facilities are added, some are out of order. Routes change, even flight rules can change.

Many airlines used Lido (Lufthansa) or Jeppesen systems as navigation information providers. They provided airlines with electronic maps and airport maps in electronic form - all, including Russian ones. We have not used Russian cards for a long time. They probably exist, but they have different standards, we are not used to them.

Now we just use the cards that are relevant for February 24th. There are so-called AIRAC cycles: every 28 days there is a cycle of updates for all these cards. Now we have been cut off from this, there are no updates anymore. And in Russia, in response to this, they decided to freeze all changes, with the exception of super-critical ones - such as equipment failure, for example. So far, they have said that they will not make any changes so that the pre-war schemes and maps can continue to be used.

In aviation, everything is simple: if something is faulty, for example, a light bulb burns out, this does not mean that the flight should immediately stop: then the losses will be huge. For 10 days, the flight goes without this light bulb. Exactly the same delayed defect category, 10 days, existed for the expired database. Since it was all over for us, Aeroflot simply changed this category by its decision. I don't think it's legal, but they just told us that with an expired navigation base, you can fly for 120 days. It is also permissible to extend this period once, that is, they did it for a maximum of eight months. In general, they are forced to commit violations and constantly invent something in order to stay “on the wing”.

On the replacement of foreign aircraft with Russian ones

Russia also participated in the creation of foreign aircraft, but mainly as a supplier of raw materials - for example, titanium. This has been the custom since Soviet times: we know how to extract raw materials, we have a lot of titanium and it is easy to process. Initially, titanium was effectively used in Soviet submarines, and good production was established. All this was inherited by Russia. Although titanium is available all over the world, in Russia it is mined in large quantities and, apparently, is not very expensive. Therefore, Russian titanium is in almost all aircraft in the world.

However, they can replace our titanium, this is a matter of time and money, and we have nothing to replace their planes with.. But we did not produce the Sukhoi Superjet, but only assembled it in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and it was also clear how, if you look at the statistics. So now we de facto do not have our own aircraft.

We de facto do not have our own aircraft now

There is, of course, MS-21, it is even certified, but there are a huge number of problems. They set their sights on a composite aircraft, not having their own production of composites, having no idea how to work with these composites. Making a composite wing was a huge mistake for them. It will have to be changed entirely after, for example, a collision with a large bird. In any case, serial production of MS-21. It is de facto impossible to produce a successful series of civil aircraft of our own production.

To effectively replace one aircraft with another, you need to have huge resources and control. In a plundered country, nothing will be built on fear, and if it is built, it will be very crooked. With a radical change in the situation, let's call it that, it will take 10-20 years to create such a system. But since we are not yet seeing a realistic transition, there is no answer to the question of when something will change.

American Daily Newspaper

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