Russia’s Ministry of Transport decided to celebrate the half-centenary anniversary of the country's joining the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in a very peculiar manner.
It was in these October days that Boris Bugayev, then Minister of Civil Aviation of the USSR, prepared a resolution of the Council of Ministers on accession of the Soviet Union to the International Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention, 1944) and accession to the ICAO. The decision was formulated in the note by Andrey Gromyko, the Soviet Foreign Minister, dated October 15, 1970. On November 14 of the same year, the USSR became the 126th member of ICAO. It means that it made a commitment to develop and to follow uniform norms and rules for safe transportation of passengers and cargo, as well as aviation operations. This matched the standing of a great country that at that time accounted a quarter of all air transportations in the world. Up to a certain time the USSR fit in this system of observance of the international rules by all ICAO members. However, it seems that today, someone in the transport department has an overwhelming desire to break this system.
Here is the appeal of Flight Safety, the International Consulting and Analytical Agency, to the Ministry of Justice and the General Staff of the Defense Ministry. It looks like a howl of despair as the consequences might be quite painful for Russia especially regarding the sector of super-promising implementation of the remotely-piloted aircraft system (RPAS.) The concern is caused by the fact that a very controversial document was uploaded for public discussion at the portal of draft regulations. It is called the draft federal law “On amendments to certain legislative acts (concerning systematization of mandatory requirements in the segment of air transport).” As it turned out, for some reason, the Transport Ministry developed this document over a very short time.
“It is impossible to understand why,” says Valery Shelkovnikov, Flight Safety’s President and a member of the World Flight Safety Fund. “Apparently, someone just jumped the gun. After all, for today, ICAO, the membership of which makes it obligatory for Russia to follow the generally accepted procedures, amended only four annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation from the existing 19 annexes. All of them are related to the requirements of the standards for unmanned aircraft. So why do we need to legislate “self-imposed rules” that diverge from the ICAO documents? Do we really want to pose risk to the segment of unmanned aerial vehicles for many years while it is actively beginning to help the Russian economy by reducing operating costs for air transportation by several times? Are the lawmakers not afraid that this might cause lawsuits against these monstrous users of unmanned aircraft such as Gazprom, Rosneft, Rosseti, etc., for disruption of government orders?”
Recently, the Flight Safety agency has conducted discussions with the aviation division of AO Russian Post federal postal operator – a project for provision of postal services to the residents of Chukotka, the Arctic easternmost constituent region of Russia, by drones even during the polar night. It gives confidence that Russia will survive as long as no one gets in its way.
It should be added that, for example, ICAO standards related to certification of the most complicated subsystems of RPAS are also still in the development stage. Therefore, before its completion any certification procedure that we adopt audaciously might not only cause questions. It will not automatically meet the requirements of the Standards of the relevant Annexes to the Convention, including Annex 6 to the Convention “on Operation of Aircraft” and Annex 8 to the Convention “Airworthiness of Aircraft.” There are so many “innovations” of this kind in the new law.
In general, if adopted, how will the norms and criteria of this federal draft law relate to Russia’s commitments to maximize harmonization with ICAO requirements and the need to adopt mandatory requirements of the standards of this international aviation organization?
In due time in the past, Federal Law from 25.12.2012 № 260-FZ which is absolutely correct, made a major amendment to Article 24.1 of the Air Code. It was as follows: “The Russian Federation implements the state flight safety for civil aircraft in accordance with international standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. A memorandum of the Presidential Legal Department contains specific comments on this law -- it recommends stopping “the discovering of the continents anew” and acting in accordance with the International Aviation Standards instead.
Meanwhile, due to carelessness or misunderstanding, Aerospacenet, the Road Map of the National Technological Initiative, made by Vladimir Putin’s instruction, does not embrace the crucial guideline named “The creation of remotely piloted aviation systems” for many years. However, the drone flights have to fit into the framework of the Federal Air Space Intelligence and Control System.
This is what should be done. The current environment requires quick solutions.
According to the International Agency, the Ministry of Justice should have already intervened in the situation, since the Ministry of Transport is inexplicably marking time. For instance, to carry out legal and technical examination of the draft law for compliance with ICAO standards, to analyze the consequences of its implementation in the Russian air transport sector, and not to pose risks to the credibility of Russia’s aviation capability, already undermined by domestic issues. On the anniversary of Russia's accession to ICAO, it should be recalled that in 1970, the Soviet Union accounted for one fifth of the world's air traffic. This fact won respect of the entire international community. Today, this indicator is reduced to one and a half percent. So, it is not Russia that is likely to dictate the terms to a respected international aviation organization, which has almost 200 members.
Of course, it is possible to adopt the bill but it will be very difficult to change it in the future. Chances are they will be needed. As for the state regulation of aviation activities, Russia should not be guided by the typically Russian maxim: “The law is bad, but still it is law.