By Alexander Chernukho
This year, Belarus’ civil aviation celebrated its 60th anniversary. Undoubtedly, pilots of those early years could hardly imagine the progress that would be made in flying.
The major domestic air carrier, Belavia National Airline, transports passengers to 18 countries worldwide, using three types of plane. It has ten Boeing-737s — enough to make it a large air carrier. Meanwhile, passenger transportation to the EU and CIS is performed using three CRJ 100/200s. Charter flights are undertaken by the ‘veterans’ of the fleet: three Tu-154s (former major passenger aircraft). For agricultural cargo, ‘old-timers’ An-30 and An-2 are used — known as ‘kukuruzniks’.
Minsk’s National Airport can already rival the leading airports of Europe, being able to accommodate the gigantic Airbus 380 — the world’s biggest aircraft. Works are now underway to build a second runway. In fact, another runway also exists in Belarus, similar in size to that of Minsk National Airport. A 3km long runway is situated at Orsha’s Aircraft Repair Plant, currently welcoming planes needing servicing and repair.
Internal passenger flights no longer exist in Belarus, as Gomelavia ceased flying weekly from Gomel to Minsk this year. The Director of the Transport and Communications Ministry’s Aviation Department, Vadim Melnik, explains that inter-state transportation was unable to compete with automobile and rail transport.
“Now, a low-cost flight is being studied. Interesting proposals can be offered to passengers, as seen from major air carriers worldwide,” notes Mr. Melnik.
Before October 2011, those learning to fly have been able to study their theory in English (by correspondence) or in Russian (full-time education).
“Contemporary learning methods have been created by us on the pilotam.ru website, enabling everyone to study theory remotely,” explains the Dean of the Minsk State Higher Aviation College’s Department for Advance Training and Personnel Retraining, Alexander Ipatiev. “Exams and summer internships must be passed in line with the traditional scheme, under the eye of an experienced teacher.”
The Belarusian State Aviation Academy is being set up at the College. From September 2012, it will offer training in line with European Aviation Safety Agency standards, allowing graduates to work with aviation technique of the world’s leading air companies without needing to retrain.