Learning to fly in Russia is similar in some ways to how we achieve our licenses here in the United States, but in other ways it is quite different. If you don't get your flight experience in the military, then one can join one of the flying clubs which are springing up at the general aviation airport Myachkovo some 20 kilometers SE of Moscow.
The airport landscape is peppered with aircraft, most of which are used for aerial photography. However, a recent article from Hangar Talk in Landings reported that there are some 17 flying clubs on the airport now, and that they are at least breaking even financially despite the poor economy and lack of modern Western built training aircraft.
At one flying school it is reported that students can start out in the Czech-built L-29 jet aircraft, and solo in about 15 hours of flying time! The other aircraft used are ex-military aircraft and at least one flying club has a Cessna 172 to rent out. It is clear from interviews with local flying clubs that they would prefer to have Western built trainers for their fleet.
While expensive, the rapid growth of the private sector has brought incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs in Russia. As more and more state owned businesses are converted to the private sector, more and more individuals begin to acquire wealth in Russia, and those individuals bring along upper and middle management types whose income is also rising. Thus, American and European automobiles are becoming more prevalent, and if the general aviation aircraft manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe have their way there will be more and more of their aircraft evident in Russia as well.
One major problem which exists is the worsening relationship between Russia's government and the West. The recent invasion of the Georgian Republic by Russia has cooled relations with the West, and the Russian government appears to be moving back towards the previous Soviet Union model which is causing rampant corruption and has left the economy in shambles.
Russia enjoys a famous and well deserved reputation for its contribution to aviation history. Russians have been pioneers in the field of aviation, and their knowledge extends way beyond our atmosphere and into outer space. Aerospace is big in Russia, and walking on a Russian airport confirms that notion. For this reason many expect aviation to explode in Russia over the next decade, and Western companies want to be in on the expansion.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!