The Belarusian civil aviation rests on three whales: airports, airlines, and aeronautical services. One of these days one of the whales — Belaeronavigation company — turned ten years. In view of the jubilee our reporter met with director general Leonid CHURO.
“Tell me, please, why is the Belarusian sky so attractive for foreign airlines? Is it only the handy geographical position in the centre of Europe?”
“The position as well. Since 2000 the number of flights across Belarus has greatly risen, by 10 per cent annually on the average. The tendency is getting stronger by the hour. Last year the number of domestic and international flights in the Belarusian air space exceeded 125 thousand. I would like to remind you that according to international standards 100 thousand flights mean the air traffic in a country’s air is intensive.
The growth of the grid and the number of airways in the Belarusian air space as well as constantly improving traffic management contributed a lot to the 60 per cent rise of such an important aviation efficiency parameter as aircraft-kilometres.
High quality and culture of the transit flight service play not the least important role in raising the demand for the Belarusian sky among foreign customers. Belarus offers the shortest, meaning the most profitable routes from Europe to Japan, Singapore, and Middle East. Or from London to Hong Kong, from Scandinavia to Greece. As a rule, the most expensive and modern aircraft are used for such flights. Their passengers and pilots want no unpleasant accidents on the route. Therefore, managers of leading airlines choose, so to speak, safe transit countries with respectable aeronautical services”.
“It seems Belarus is one of these safe countries?”
“Undoubtedly. A lot depends on considerations of international aviation organisations. If it is positive, aircraft will fly via our country. If it is negative, aircraft will fly round our country. It is not the first year we’ve been co-operating with well-known aviation authorities such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Air Transport Association. By the way, some time ago the Eurocontrol (European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation), a most respectable aviation organisation, studied practices of our company. It had no complaints. Contrariwise, the Eurocontrol representatives praised our automated air traffic control system Sintez-AP2. They were impressed by the fact that the system meets all international standards and even excels them in some aspects. The opinion is an additional bonus for using the Belarusian sky for transit.
If in 1991 the Belarusian sky had 3 international airways as long as 760 kilometres, now Belarus has 55 airways longer than 25 thousand kilometres.
We also maintain close business relations with fellow services — air traffic control centres in the neighbouring states: Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia”.
“What is it like — opening one more international route across Belarus?”
“It is quite a complicated mechanism. The most important thing is getting an approval of ICAO and IATA specialists, who cater to international airways. To get a “go-ahead” of the most authoritative civil aviation organisations in the world (Belarus is one of the members), we are to pass a complicated stage of negotiations, adjustments, and agreements with all participants of the process meant to open a new airway and service posterior thousands of flights, which will choose the route.
Only after all flight safety issues are addressed, even the smallest and seemingly insignificant ones, a joint decision is taken to open the airway. The process may take months”.
“How do you assess the prospects of opening new airways in our sky?”
“Optimistic, as the number of long-distance flights is on the rise across the world. More business people and tourists from Europe fly to Asia and America. And contrariwise, more and more foreigners are willing to see the Old World. They are attracted by the opportunity to establish a business, etc. We are getting ready to open new airways. Though the air traffic in the Belarusian sky is already intensive, there is space to improve the Belarusian air space and increase the number of foreign flights.
Therefore, we buy cutting-edge navigational equipment, including air radars and communications, attentively keep an eye on professional skills of our personnel. All the measures allow us to constantly increase the quality of the service”.
“Human factor is extremely important for the civil aviation. It is enough to remember the horrible catastrophe over the Bodensee in Germany, when due to an error of the Swiss air traffic controller two aircraft crashed. What is done in Belarus to prevent such situations?”
There is such an aspect — raising the flight safety level. Highly qualified air control personnel are one of the ways to hit the target. We get only the best men. It is widely acknowledged that air traffic control is a prestigious and highly paid job. It is understandable. Therefore, salaries of our air traffic controllers are higher than the country’s average and correspond to the amount of nerve energy they spend at work.
In recent years we take new employees only from one source — Minsk State Aviation College. But before letting a new air traffic controller work on his own, a young specialist trains a lot on a simulator, which is similar to the real traffic control desk like two peas in a pod. The future air traffic controller gets various extraordinary situations: fog, storm with lightning, strong wind, etc. Our regular air traffic controllers must take a simulator course after vacations or any other forced break.
Let me tell you honestly, not every young man can be an air traffic controller. One has to be a master of foreign languages, has to have excellent health, natural wisdom. For example, our traffic controllers communicate with aircraft crews in two languages: Russian and English. Perfect mastery of the latter is a must for job applicants. By the way, there is an English language test during the entrance exams at the college already”.
“Did you service exist before the USSR collapse or was it set up after Belarus gained its independence?”
It is a new unit of the Belarusian State Aviation Committee. During the USSR time a single air traffic control service catered to all planes. After the so-called “parade of sovereignties” the situation changed radically. There was no more common sky. Therefore, in early March 1996 an aeronautical service company Belaeronavigation was set up. Today it has four airports: Brest, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Grodno. They have modern premises, equipment and runways. By the way, all airports can receive any type of airborne vehicles. We have more than 1,300 experienced specialists.
“Usually we mention “transit” when we talk about railways and automobile roads, which have a substantial source of the budget income. Meanwhile, transit by air, sorry for the pun, is getting higher every year. What are the tariffs?”
“The tariffs are set by the Economy Ministry. The basic unit is 39 euros for every 100 kilometres for a 50-ton aircraft. The more it weighs, the higher is the tariff. And contrariwise. Last year Belaeronavigation earned tens of millions of foreign currency for the state budget.
When you see an aircraft high in the sky, in 90 per cent of the cases it is foreign. The more foreign aircraft there are, understandably, in accordance to corresponding norms and rules, the more effectively our country’s air is used”.
by Irina Trofilava