MOSCOW, April 21 President Vladimir Putin signed
a law on Monday that allows Russian airlines to hire foreign
pilots, a move the Kremlin said was needed to end a shortage of
pilots on civilian flights as passenger numbers grow.
The law signing comes five months after 50 people were
killed in the crash of a Tatarstaapriln Airlines jet, blamed on
pilot error, which highlighted concerns that Russia does not
have enough pilots to meet growing demand.
"The (new) federal law is designed to liquidate the deficit
of commanders to civilian aircraft," the Kremlin said in a
statement. It said the number of passengers air trips had been
increasing by 13 to 15 percent a year.
It said the law would allow airlines to hire foreign pilots
over the next five years, indicating that no new foreign pilots
could be hired after April 2019 but those already employed in
Russia could remain.
Russia and the other former Soviet republics combined have
one of the world's worst air-traffic safety records, with a
total accident rate almost three times the world average in
2011, according to the International Air Transport Association.
After the Nov. 17 Tatarstan Airlines crash, federal
investigators said the pilot may have received his licence from
a training centre that was later closed on suspicion of
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin was quoted
as saying there was reason to believe many pilots working for
smaller Russian airlines had received licenses without
undergoing the proper training.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by David Holmes)