“…drunk or sedated flight crews, forged safety documents and panicked pilots,” WSJ on flying in Russia

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More dangerous than flying in Congo and Indonesia. That’s a real blow.

The WSJ (subscription required) reported on Russian’s aviation safety woes:

Investigations of nine commercial plane crashes this year, including one that killed an entire professional hockey team, found a raft of gross violations and errors, such as drunk or sedated flight crews, forged safety documents and panicked pilots. In one crash, the navigator used the wrong guidance equipment and aimed his jetliner at a tree, far from the runway.


In heartland Russia, for example, many pilots and airplane mechanics show little concern for basic safety rules that have become second nature elsewhere. Domestic carriers operate under national regulations that are much weaker than global rules that Russia’s international carriers face. Falsification is common, down to widespread use of counterfeit spare parts, Russian officials say.

and details of a RusAir crash include the stereotype-affirming:

Investigators say preflight medical checks, a world-wide requirement, were perfunctory and possibly falsified. All seven crew members, including flight attendants, recorded identical pulses. The airport says all checks were conducted properly. Still, an autopsy of the navigator found his blood-alcohol level, at 0.081%, was above the legal limit for driving in Russia or the U.S.

Those with WSJ access and planning travel in Russia should study the full article.

The Rapid Traveler’s experience of Russian domestic flights include OneWorld member S7 and Vladivostok Air, and both seemed professional but he did not have his breathalyzer to sample the crew.

This calls to mind a perhaps ill-advised hovercraft ride on Lake Baikal:

[flickr video=http://www.flickr.com/photos/rapidtravelchai/6072985785]

[flickr video=http://www.flickr.com/photos/rapidtravelchai/6072968381]

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Side note: though Russia clamped down on the import used-car market in Vladivostok in 2009, a market which flooded the country with right-hand drive Japanese vehicles on Russia’s right lane roads, the business still continues and it generally is much cheaper to fly out of Vladivostok than fly in, a consideration for those going one-way on that branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

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ex-Korean buses on the streets of Irkutsk

Readers, share your Russia aviation gems and horror stories.

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