BizAv Ops to Russia: Part 1 – Airports & Operating Restrictions
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operations to Russia.
While business aircraft operations to major destinations and tech stops in Russia are relatively straightforward, additional considerations must be kept in mind when you operate during winter months and plan stops at more remote destinations.
Here is a general overview of what you should be aware of:
1. Consider airport alternates – particularly in the east
When you travel to Russia – especially during winter months – availability and practicality of alternates must be carefully considered. Some locations have very limited options, and closest alternates may be hundreds of miles away. This is particularly true in eastern Russia. For example the closest alternate for Petropavlovsk (UHPP) is Magadan (UHMM) – 480 nautical miles away. When you need to use an alternate, you’ll have to consider ground handling availability, as well as landing/overflight permit revisions, for the next leg.
2. Check airport operating hours
Other than at major international airports such as Vnukovo (UUWW), Sheremetyevo (UUEE), Domodedovo (UUDD), and St. Petersburg (ULLI), 24-hour operations are not the norm. Many airports of entry, particularly in far eastern Russia, have restricted operating hours. Be aware, also, that domestic and military airports in Russia may have certain travel and/or operating hour restrictions in place.
3. Be aware of airport closures
It’s important to check on airport closures – which may result from weather issues or runway work – via notice to airmen. There are also airport considerations to be mindful of such as lack of equipment and/or de-ice fluid availability. Weather is a major consideration in the winter, and it’s common to be faced with snow, ice, low cloud, and fog issues. This can lead to flight diversions or inability to depart and can result in significant delays. Check terminal area forecasts and meteorological aviation routines and obtain a weather brief 1.5 hours prior to departure to confirm weather at your destination and alternates.
4. Aircraft parking may be limited
During major event periods, aircraft parking options may be somewhat restricted. This is the case at ULLI several times each year due to events such as the upcoming International Economic Forum. In such cases you may need to travel to an alternate airport for overnight parking. A good alternate for ULLI is Helsinki (EFHK), but using this option will require crew members to have multi-entry visas for Russia.
5. Russia can be an expensive destination
Travel to Russia can be particularly expensive in terms of navigation fees, airport fees, aircraft parking, and ground handling charges. For example crew accommodations in the Moscow area can run $350-450/night for a 4-star hotel. Of course, this can vary greatly due to currency fluctuations from Russia’s current economic issues.
6. Consider security, as well as hotel and local transport options
Airport security in Russia is good, and there are no current major off-airport security concerns. It’s always important, however, to check the security status of the area you’re traveling to in advance. It’s recommended to use pre-paid transport (car with driver), sourced from either your ground handler or a known provider, while in Russia. Avoid public transportation and rental cars unless you are very familiar with the region. While larger Russian cities have many good hotel options, choices will be limited with no availability of large international chains at remote or regional destinations. When traveling to outlying areas, always research hotel options well in advance.
Particularly during winter months (or year-round when you operate during major event periods), additional pre-planning time should be considered. Your 3rd-party provider and ground handler will source the best options depending on your destinations, time of year, and type of flight.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers permit, visa, and documentation requirements for operations to Russia.
If you have any questions about this article or need assistance with an upcoming trip to Russia, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.