Russia is one of Turkey’s most important trading partners. The latter has levied no sanctions against Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine, despite massive pressure from the US and EU, and flights have continued to operate between the two countries. However, the Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center is now reportedly rejecting Russian pilots from training in its simulators.
No, it is not a political move on behalf of Turkey’s president Erdogan, who as late as Tuesday said that in his latest talk with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart seemed to want to end the “special military operation” in Ukraine as soon as possible. However, the center is approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which means it can no longer train Russian pilots due to the EU’s last round of sanctions levied against Russia.
The decision from the training center was sent out to Russian airlines and acquired by the Telegram channel Aviatorshina. The post reads,
“Russian airlines will no longer be able to send pilots to Turkey for flight simulation training (FSTD). Due to the tightening of sanctions, Turkish aviation training centers stop working with carriers from Russia. Thus, the Turkish Airlines training center today notified Russian airlines that, in accordance with the tightening of sanctions by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), it is forced to stop working with companies from Russia, since all FSTDs are approved by EASA.”
The contents of the letter have also been verified by a pilot from one of the addressed airlines, according to Russian media outlet The Insider.
The Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center has 18 simulators in its facilities outside of Istanbul. Photo: Turkish Airlines Flight Training Center
All EASA qualification certificates to Russia suspended
On its website, EASA states that,
“EASA has suspended all flight simulation training device (FSTD) qualification certificates issued by EASA to organisations in Russia.”
It has also suspended the training and licensing of all aircraft maintenance personnel from Russia.
Anyone who performs training of Russian aviation personnel may risk falling under secondary sanctions. This pivot causes a significant issue for the continued training of Russian pilots, who lack domestic access to widebody simulators, although Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 simulators are prevalent throughout the country.
There is not a single simulator for the Airbus A350 in Russia. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying
No parts, no pilots
Pilots must undergo simulation training twice every year. And while Russia may have jumped some legal hoops by re-registering foreign-owned planes domestically, it cannot so easily turn a blind eye to its own aviation legislation, which states that pilots who fail to meet training requirements will no longer be allowed to fly.
Thus, even if the country can somehow get around the issue of failing fleet airworthiness and cannibalizing its own long-haul aircraft for parts, there will not be pilots allowed to fly the planes. Unless Putin does indeed “end things quickly” (without demolishing the country) in Ukraine, the Aeroflot Group’s prediction from two weeks ago of carrying 40 million passengers per year in 2023 and 2024 may have to shift somewhat (although this is still far from the 60 million of 2019). Unless it plans to build its own Airbus A350 simulator from scratch, which, again, would be tricky without access to foreign parts.