More chaos for Russian aviation with pilots, controllers facing mobilization

Russia’s commercial aviation industry could be facing more problems due to the mobilization declared by president Vladimir Putin, multiple reports suggest. 

The mobilization was announced on September 21, 2022, with immediate effect. According to Russia’s Defense minister Sergei Shoigu, the first wave, intended to draft 300,000 men, is aimed at mobilizing people with prior military experience for the country’s war effort. 

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, airlines face a difficult situation because many pilots previously served in the country’s Air Force, and thus are eligible for draft.

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The newspaper quoted sources in one major airline as saying that up to 40% of their pilots have a military background. Sources in another airline said the company’s personnel is “increasingly worried.” 

Kommersant inquired with Russia’s Transport ministry if pilots would receive an exemption from draft, but the response was negative, the newspaper reports.  

Telegram channel Aviatorschina, which regularly publishes inside stories from the Russian aviation industry, reports that the work of air traffic control (ATC) was disrupted due to “dozens” of controllers in the regions of Kamchatka, Magadan and Irkutsk being drafted suddenly. 

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The claim matches scores of reports from across the country of people being handed draft notices and immediately being sent to military camps, with some being drafted despite having no military background.  

The mobilization announcement sparked mass exodus of Russian citizens abroad, with airline tickets to neighboring countries quickly selling out and queues on borders reaching unprecedented sizes. 

Flag carrier Aeroflot has meanwhile announced that drafted men can return their flight tickets free of charge It has also removed male flight attendants from all foreign flights, ostensibly to prevent them from fleeing the country, the airline’s employees’ page on Telegram reports.

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