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Skilled pilots' shortage worries Russian airlines

Russia's airline industry is growing rapidly, with rising passenger numbers and new aircraft on the way. But the business is facing a serious problem – there are not enough pilots around to fly the new planes.

National airline Aeroflot says that of Russia’s 10,000 pilots, a thousand a year retire, or go overseas to work. And Russia's state-run training system, turning out just 120 a year, cannot replace them. Meantime, Russia is unique in not allowing its airlines to hire foreign crews for its planes, making the shortage even worse.

Now Aeroflot plans to set up its own training school to turn out a fresh generation of pilots, trained to fly its new Boeing and Airbus airliners.

One way to finance the renewed pilot training system is to make students pay for their own training in future.

“Certainly we look for ways for the banks or some other financial institution to help the students, or maybe the company could pay for a certain number of students that it would be interested to have,” commented Lev Koshlyakov, Deputy Director General, Aeroflot.

But while the industry welcomes new training schools, the real answer to the industry's problem is for the government to encourage the development of general aviation and  flying as a sport.