July 27, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
On the ramp at Talkeetna, surrounded by aircraft that had transported them there, the Russian visitors learn about airport maintenance and operations, see a flight service station, and observe air traffic in a nontowered environment.
Russian aviation officials researching how to establish general aviation in the newly opened expanse of their country’s airspace spent a week experiencing GA in action in Alaska.
The visit was part of an emerging partnership aimed at developing the infrastructure for civilian aviation in Russia, where just last November the lower altitudes were relinquished from military control—and where basic concepts such as airports without control towers remain novel.
The FAA, AOPA, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, and other pilot organizations joined together to present GA in all its aspects to the visiting Russian dignitaries. AOPA and the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations (IAOPA) are working with governments worldwide, providing assistance to develop a healthy global environment for GA.
Members of the Russian delegation listen as representatives from AOPA and Alaska aviation organizations outline their contributions to general aviation.
The visit by Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (FATA) officials, from July 18 to July 22, also was part of ongoing flight-safety collaboration between the FAA and the Russian Federation. Scheduled activities included a wide-ranging tour of FAA and flight service facilities, airports, meetings with representatives of Alaska aviation organizations, as well as briefings by FATA Director Alexander Neradko and other Russian officials on the emerging state of GA in Russia.
As change comes to many of the world’s nations with growth economies, aviation is riding the wave, as the General Aviation Manufacturers Association observed in its outlook for 2011.
“In 2010, many manufacturers increasingly turned their attention to the international marketplace, most notably in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. These key markets are accounting for an increased proportion of sales and are leading the industry through this global recovery,” the report said.
On July 19, Tom George, AOPA Alaska regional representative, participated in a panel discussion of the role that industry associations play in supporting development of GA and promoting safety. Joining him on the panel were representatives of the Alaska Airmen's Association, Alaska Chapter of The Ninety-Nines, the Seaplane Pilots Association, the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation, Alaska Airports Association, Alaska Aviation Coordination Council, and the Governor’s Alaska Aviation Advisory Board.
The following day, the visitors experienced GA for themselves, flying to four airports in GA aircraft piloted by members of the Alaska Airmen’s Association, starting with a flight from Anchorage’s Merrill Field to Talkeetna. Volunteer pilots flew the delegation members to their destinations in aircraft ranging from a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop to Cessna 180s, a Cessna 182, and an Aviat Husky, said association spokesperson Dee Hanson. Two of the aircraft were ADS-B equipped, she said.
As there are no nontowered airports in Russia at present, time was dedicated to allow the visiting officials to observe IFR and VFR operations at Talkeetna. Communications, traffic patterns, pilot-controlled lighting, and a remote communications outlet enabling radio contact with flight service could be seen in action in the airspace, which, they learned is classified Class G with a Class E surface area. The officials also inspected a weather camera site.
Members of the Russian delegation experienced backcountry aviation at the Skwenta Roadhouse.
With the visitors changing aircraft on each leg of the trip to get a sense of GA’s variety and resources, it was on to the Skwentna Roadhouse—and a landing on a gravel strip—for lunch during what Hanson described as a “gorgeous” day for the entourage of 30 people to fly.
Back in Anchorage, the focus shifted to NextGen and other aviation technologies at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. The school’s degree programs in aviation-related fields, and simulator-based training were also presented.
The officials received briefings on GA airport security, and security requirements for airman applicants and flight instructors in the United States.
“At the end of the week, Mr. Neradko indicated that they were going home with a completely new appreciation for the nature and vitality of GA,” said George.
The Alaska aviators emphasized to the Russian officials their interest in developing an extension of an existing air route from Nome, Alaska, to Provideniya, Russia.
Neradko “pledged to work both with the Russian agencies and with U.S. organizations to make it easier for cross-border travel by general aviation,” said George.
The Alaska aviators were pleased with the results.
“This is going to change a lot of things for flying in the Far East,” Hanson said.
The international dialog will continue in September when the FAA plans to participate in a helicopter safety meeting in Moscow.
A boat and trailer transport the Russian delegation the half-mile back to the Skwentna airport after a lunch hosted by the Alaska Airmen’s Association. Skwentna is one of 280 Alaskan communities off the road network, with few vehicles available for surface transportation.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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