As more bizjet traffic goes to Russia, service improves
More frequent visits by private aircraft have brought ease in paperwork and better ground handling standards.
PKC (Petropavlovsk, Russia) continues to be a popular tech stop. Be prepared for a rough runway and be aware that alternate airports are some distance away.
Most popular Moscow-area airports for GA operators are VKO (Vnukovo, Moscow, Russia) and DME (Domodedovo, Moscow, Russia). SVO is used primarily for scheduled commercial ops but can be a good parking alternate when VKO fills up.
VKO is closest to Moscow city center and has a GAT. However, it is prone to occasional airport closures due to government and VIP flights. DME ranks in operator popularity right up there with VKO although it's further from town. "VKO and DME are both good GA options with similar permit processing times and equal chances of ground delays," says Hoover. "But fewer airport closures are experienced at DME."
VKO has become a particularly busy airport over recent years adds Rockwell Collins Ops Mgr Tim Bartholomew. "Government-related flights tend to shut down the airport from time to time," he says, "and parking can be an issue when large events are in progress."
SVO, on the other hand, has a new GAT—Terminal A. It opened in 2012 with 22 remote parking stands and has become a more practical option for GA than in the past. When operating to LED keep in mind that GA parking fills up at times and you may be faced with a drop-and-go.
"A new FBO opened at LED in May 2013," notes Jeppesen Intl Trip Planner Courtney Gould. "This new 2-level facility features a good ramp area with parking for about 28 GA aircraft."
Remote and domestic airport ops
There's an art to operating successfully to some more remote tech stops such as PKC (Petropavlovsk, Russia). "You always need to monitor weather when choosing tech stops in Eastern Russia or Siberia," cautions Hoover. "There may be airport closures in winter, significant weather events have potential to ground you for some time and nearest alternates may be 300–400 nm away."
When operating to domestic Russian airports be aware that aircraft services and credit may be limited. It's best to carry an enhanced flyaway spares kit when operating to more remote destinations. Be aware that fuel uplift volumes may be limited at certain tech stops. "At TAS (Tashkent, Russia), and several other locations, you may be faced with a max fuel uplift limit of 2–3 metric tons," says Tyler.
In most cases you'll need to arrange for a local Russian navigator when venturing to domestic airport locations. Its best to request navigation services concurrent with your landing permit application, says Gould. Note that operators are responsible for payment of navigator services plus their transportation and lodging.
Sochi Olympics planning
When planning operations to AER (Sochi, Russia) over next year's Feb 7–23 Winter Olympics period, be aware that this location will only allow parking for government officials and Olympic committee members. All other operators will need to drop/go and reposition aircraft.
"Expect high volumes of traffic to AER," says Hoover. "It would be prudent to plan on 1–2 weeks' lead time, even for drop-and-go landing permits." Keep in mind that if you're planning to reposition outside Russia crew will require multi-entry visas and this involves longer visa planning lead times."
Local airport authorities will be inundated with landing and parking requests over the Olympics period so it's important to make arrangements as soon as possible. "Once you have a plan in place for Sochi—permits, alternate airport parking and required hotel accommodations—stick with it," says Linebaugh. "Changes to schedule or accommodations may be almost impossible [to fulfill] during this busy period."
Adds Gould, "KRR (Krasnodar, Russia)—100 nm away—is one possible alternate for AER, but parking there is also expected to fill up. Crew hotel accommodation availability will be an issue anywhere in the area. If you have an AOG be aware that it may take up to 4 weeks to clear replacement parts through customs. Your best option may be to reposition your aircraft outside Russia—perhaps northern Turkey."
Additional operating tips
Russia can be a bureaucratic operating environment so it's important to have all paperwork updated and in order. Be aware that cabotage is an issue in Russia. "All passengers should arrive and depart internationally in order to travel domestically," says Hoover. "Cabotage—carrying Russian nationals within Russia, for example—will be approved on a case-by-case basis but this should be arranged with CAA beforehand.
It's important to provide full names of each passenger as well as full details and exact nature of the flight."
When operating to Russia fuel availability is seldom an issue, airport security is very good and today's local deice fluids are no longer corrosive. Be aware, however, that crew accommodations in the St Petersburg area are often in short supply and you may need to pay $450 a night for crew rooms in the Moscow area during large event periods.
Orchestrating ops to Russia
"Operations to major airports in Russia tend to go smoothly," says Humphrey. "You only really start to run into headaches when operating to smaller domestic airports. Additional preplanning is essential for these locations."
Working with a good ground handler in Russia is a key element to a successful and trouble-free trip says Hoover. "Use your ground handler to obtain all required permits. Ground handlers in Russia are responsible to CAA for your operation in and out of Russian territory, and they'll need to have full details for your flight and any intended revisions."
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.
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