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Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:20 pm

i was wondering what sort of airspace restrictions the soviets imposed on commercial aviation prior to the end of the cold war. it seems that the KAL shootdown in 1983 demonstrated that the soviets were quite touchy about their airspace and i was wondering how this affected airlines on flights like LHR-NRT for example. were they able to fly around soviet airspace? is the post war russian government more accommodating to civil aviation than the communists? i am interested in how the airline industry came to terms with the political reality of traveling to and over nations that were antagonistic to the West.

[Edited 2003-09-08 15:21:02]
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RE: Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:22 pm

Up until the point where the USSR opened their airspace, most, if not all, flights from Europe to Japan went through ANC.
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RE: Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:27 pm

Air India was one of the few airlines that were permitted Russian overflight rights during the cold war. Many of the India-Europe flights routed through Moscow and the airline even operated a crew base there for many years (my mom was based there for 6 months in the late 60s). AI also carried a Russian speaking radio operator aboard all those flights because ATC was conducted exclusively in Russian.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada

RE: Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Mon Sep 08, 2003 10:38 pm

In these days, Russian airspace is quite different, Russian ATC still remains extremely strict about air traffic to stay on published airways, and do not allow "direct to" between two points in open airspace.
In the Far East, Khabarovsk has become an excellent fuel stop for airplanes transiting from Hong Kong towards Anchorage (I flew that route with Cargolux) to avoid high fuel prices, fees and night landing restrictions in Japan.
In the recent years I have flown occasionally to Moscow on charter flights, on routes from Western Europe. Moscow ATC is now quite informal, Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) even has flight levels in feet, but Russia continues to operate with metric levels, and QFE altimeter settings are used.
Some Trans Siberian routes still require Russian language communications, for which a "navigator" is required for language reasons.
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RE: Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Tue Sep 09, 2003 5:50 am

The KAL tragedy was in large part due to the fact that the plane penetrated not just "some" restricted air zone, but the one where the USSR had had its major missile well array (Kamchatka is one of the parts of USSR/Russia closest to the US territory). There were many speculations in the press at that time that the departure of the flight from Anchorage had been intentionally delayed to get a US satellite in place to monitor the reaction of the Soviet systems to the penetration event. I cannot comment on that. However, the fact that an unauthorized plane got close to one of the most sensitive areas of the Soviet airspace is impossible to deny.

That tragedy had consequences. When, some time later, the kid performed a flight from Finland to Red Square in Moscow, nobody was brave enough to give an order to intercept him. The full responsibility took Defence Minister or one of his deputies (I do not remember exactly), who was fired by Gorbachev.

Certain routes of the Soviet air space have been open for foreign planes for many years, most notably the routes from Western Europe to Far East and to South Asia (Minsk-Moscow-Aktyubinsk-Samarkand). Aktyubinsk (AKX, an otherwise unremarkable small Kazakhstan town) has a very good runway, and a foreign 747 landed there in emergency at least once). These routes were a good source of hard currency for the USSR, and the government promoted them in every way. At first, the government insisted that the foreign planes on the Far East route would make a stop in SVO (landing fees, refueling, shopping, etc.). When 747-400 emerged on the scene, such a stop has become even less necessary, which resulted in tough negotiation between the USSR government and the airlines. As far as I understand, some compromise solution has been found, and many planes from Western Europe to Japan fly over the Russian territory nonstop nowadays.

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RE: Airspace Restrictions Over Ussr

Tue Sep 09, 2003 6:38 am

Dulles :
Yes indeed the bargain was one of the toughest ever between USSR and the West for the mere overfly of USSR from Europe to Far East. And the resulting fees have reached huge amounts !
On top of that it serves as counter-action by the Russians : when Europe wanted to ban landing to those noisiest russian dynosaurs jets....the reply came : if you do that, forget about the overfly of Russia to Asia !
Lucky you are to have two oceans around your country !!

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