Operating to Eastern Russia – Part 1: Airports & Operations
This business aviation blog post is the first of a two-part series on operations to Eastern Russia.
This is a post by author Dmitry Konovalov. Dmitry is general director for Universal Aviation Russia – Khabarovsk, based in Khabarovsk (UHHH), which provides 24/7 coordination of flight permits and ground handling services throughout Russia including supervision services at all Moscow airports. Dmitry is an expert on business aircraft operations in Russia.
In this blog series we consider tech and destination stops in north and northeastern Russia. While there are several airports used by general aviation (GA) in this region the two most popular are Petropavlovsk (UHPP) and Novosibirsk (UNNT) and using either of them depends on your route of flight.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Airport options
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a 1,250 km long peninsula in the Russian Far East, between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. While this region attracts some GA traffic on destination stops – for fishing, sightseeing, skiing and hunting – most GA traffic to UHPP is for tech stop purposes. UHPP is well positioned on great circle routings between Alaska and Asia and one of the few recommended and available tech stops in this region. However, there are operating issues to consider for this location. UNNT, located along the route of the Trans-Siberian railroad in central Siberia, is strategically positioned for GA tech stops between Southeast Asia and Europe. Both UHPP and UNNT handle large and consistent volumes of GA traffic and provide full tech stop, refueling and crew rest services.
2. Operating hours and airport conditions
UNNT is a 24-hour airport of entry (AOE) with fuel, full services, credit on prior arrangement and customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) services in the main terminal. No hangar space is available for transient GA operations but in-flight catering options are adequate. UHPP, on the other hand, has several operating restrictions — including night curfews, relatively rough runways, limited catering options, no hangar availability and lack of good local hotel accommodations. Due to severe winter conditions in the Petropavlovsk area extensive runway maintenance is underway at UHPP up to six months each year. Another consideration to be mindful of is that UHPP is not certified for some types of large GA aircraft. UHPP has a long runway and is one of the only practical tech stops in the area. For UNNT there are seldom issues in terms of short notice or after hour operations. While short notice movements are normally approved for UHPP, airport overtime is difficult to obtain and will depend on your mission and passenger status.
3. UHPP operating considerations
UHPP is normally closed to GA operations from 0800 to 2000 UTC but may be used during these hours for tech stop purposes when use of the passenger terminal is not needed. To arrange a landing permit for UHPP for aircraft over 45 tons it’s important to confirm that the airport is certified for your particular aircraft type. Certification guarantees that required ground support equipment (GSE) and personnel will be available. If your large aircraft is not specifically certified for operation into UHPP (for example a DC10, MD90 or AN124), you’ll need to obtain a one-time approval from the airport authority and this may mandate carrying a tow bar, tech fluids and a flight mechanic onboard.
Recommended alternates for UNNT include Kemerovo (UNEE), Barnaul (UNBB) and Novokuznetsk (UNWW) at between 150 and 300 km away. Alternates for UHPP include Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (UHSS) and Magadan (UHMM) at a distance of about 1,000 km. The above are all 24-hour AOEs with the exception of UHSS, which is open 2100-1200 UTC and has a curfew from 0330-0500 UTC, and UHMM with is only open 2300-1100 UTC.
5. Cold weather operations
At northern locations such as UHPP and UNNT winter conditions can be extremely cold and last for up to nine months of the year. Best practice during winter is to dress warmly, drain water and lav systems, remove liquids, request a heating unit for preflight and remove batteries for longer stops. De-icing services are readily available and generally not an issue at major Russian airports during winter months.
6. Hotels and local transport
Adequate crew accommodations are available for stopovers at larger cities in Russia butroom availability may sell out during large local event periods. At larger Russian cities we often recommend staying at hotels close to the airport rather than hotels in the city center. This is because of significant traffic congestion delays in the cities. We suggest confirming crew accommodations well in advance of travel. For local area travel pre-paid transport (car with driver) is preferred. However, be aware that English speaking drivers are a rare commodity in Russia, even in the larger cities.
7. Ground service considerations
Operators should avoid sending multiple requests to different ground handlers for the same services — particularly for fuel uplifts and in-flight catering. If you decide to place an order with a different handling company it’s important to cancel any outstanding requests with different providers. In terms of fuel uplifts be aware that only TS1 fuel is available — this is similar to Jet A — and Avgas is not supplied at most locations.
8. Flight planning considerations
Alternate and equal time point (ETP) planning is a particularly important consideration when operating to and through Russia’s Siberian and northeast regions. It’s recommended that you speak to your 3rd-party provider on any routing concerns
While both UHPP and UNNT are well used tech stops there are particular cautions and issues to consider during winter months. Also, be aware of airport requirements for each airport including alternates, especially during the winter.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers information on customs, immigration, and permits for operations to Eastern Russia.