Are Central Asian pilots going to Russia to work?

Uzbekistan Airways pilots; photo:
Russia is ready to consider the issue related to attracting highly-qualified labour migrants from the CIS, first of all to civil aviation.

The Russian Transport Ministry has drafted amendments to the air code and law on legal status of foreigners in Russia, which would allow foreigners, first of all those from CIS countries, to be hired as aircraft commanders.

The initiators of the draft law have said that there is a trend towards younger flying personnel in Russia’s civil aviation.

In other words, a lack of co-pilots is not tangible while there is an estimated need for 200 aircraft commanders.

The first deputy general director of Transaero, Dmitriy Stolyarov, believes that this figure is understated and assumes that this year only the aviation sphere will need at least 2,100 people.

It is assumed that Russia will be recruiting migrant pilots within the next five years, a term needed to prepare local pilots.

The head of the site, Roman Gusarov, considers that pilots from Central Asia will help their Russian counterparts to fly planes.

“They speak Russian and are aware of our mentality,” he explained to website.

“Open stupidity?”

However, not everyone has this mood. In an interview with, a test pilot and a member of the International Academy of Human Problems in Aviation and Space, Aleksandr Akimenkov, has described this idea of the Russian Transport Ministry as open stupidity.

In his opinion, other CIS countries themselves are in need of good pilots too. Moreover, he is convinced that this practice contradicts Russia’s security.

“An aircraft is a shell, which flies wherever it is directed to,” the expert said excitedly. “What, were the 11 September events in New York not enough for you? What are the guarantees that pilots from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan will not direct their aircraft to the Kremlin or somewhere else?”

He is convinced that even European citizens who come from the Muslim countries of the former USSR can be regarded as fully unreliable.

Akimenkov referred to the example of the Soviet training system for flying personnel which had a special unit that filed records of every pilot since their college enrolment and checked all their relatives.

Today, he thinks, it is unlikely that such files will come along with pilots from Central Asia.

Are foreigners cheaper?

An assistant to the president of the Sheremetyevo aiport trade union of flying personnel, Igor Obodkov, told that the Transport Ministry’s initiative does not hold any water from the economic viewpoint.

“It is no secret that income is less in CIS countries than in Russia. Now pilots from Central Asia will be recruited and paid more than in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but less than in Russia. And Russia’s pilots will also be adjusted to this lower level,” Obodkov said.

In his opinion, it is this argument about salary manipulation that Aeroflot director general Vitaliy Savelev used last autumn in a conversation with President Vladimir Putin about hiring pilots from other CIS countries.

Obodkov said that trade unions were not against the idea of migrants’ work in Russia, but on condition that they will be granted Russian citizenship with all social guarantees it provides for.

Laid up without pilots

But another problem arises in this case. How will the governments of those countries from where pilots will start migrating to Russia en mass look at this?

“I am sure that they will not be allowed to leave. Or they will immediately start raising salaries and keep them with this, or deprive pilots of their licences, without which no-one will employ them,” Obodkov said.

According to him, if the governments of those countries will let pilots go without any obstacles, their air companies may get “laid up” fully or partially.