20 june 2012

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on air traffic control issues at Moscow’s Automated Air Traffic Control Centre

“We will have to increase the throughput capacity of Moscow airports also by streamlining the structure of the airspace and upgrading the technical equipment of traffic control centres.”

Transcript of the meeting:

Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, our meeting today is devoted to national air traffic control. It’s being held in the right place, too, which is a flight control centre. This setting would impress anyone who flies. I do regularly: after our talk today, for example, I’ll take a long flight. So it’s always interesting to see air traffic controllers at work. As is common knowledge, air traffic controllers have a very difficult job with a huge responsibility. Can someone explain the system to me?

I’ve just been told that the Moscow Centre monitors 60% of all flights in Russia. Is that right?

Remark: 56%.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, 56%. This indicates that air traffic control is even more centralised than during Soviet times. It’s a bad sign when our regional aviation is in a crisis. This problem will have to be addressed within the next few years.

We’ve paid special attention to aviation in recent years, particularly to its modernization. Let me give you two figures for the sake of comparison. In 2002, the federal government allocated one billion roubles for airport infrastructure development, which is, of course, a pittance. But the 2011 figure was 41 billion roubles! This is much better, but not optimal. In any case, aviation is an area where you can’t rest on your laurels. You must constantly improve. Generally, transport infrastructure is an extremely important subject. I was in the North Caucasus yesterday and we discussed how to develop transport infrastructure there and in other places around the country.

As for the technological level, it is generally clear that all we have here is what I'd call a kind of a symbiosis of the old equipment that appeared when the flight control centre was built in 1981 (Am I right? Was it built in 1981?)... These Swedish accessories are a monument of the past era but it's wonderful they are in good working order. At the same time the airport has new, digital equipment. There are ideas on developing satellite systems. I hope that at this meeting we'll take decisions on this score. At any rate, I'll give relevant instructions to those in charge.

The structure of the Moscow air hub is already very complicated. It cannot cope with the growing cargo shipments, passenger flights and modern service requirements. I think it is obvious for all those present that this load will continue growing as people use aviation more intensively. This is why we will have to increase the throughput capacity of Moscow airports also by streamlining the structure of the airspace and upgrading the technical equipment of traffic control centres.

This is what I propose for discussion. We are building a new automated air traffic control centre. When will its construction be completed?

Vladimir Uzhakov (director of the Moscow Automated Air Traffic Control Centre): A government resolution provided for its commissioning on December 15, 2011. It was postponed to December 15, 2012 because of the need to accommodate new technical terms.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. It must go into operation anyway, and no later than this year. I was told there are some problems with the delivery of radar equipment. I don’t know… let those in charge tell us about them. At any rate, all plans must be carried out. I’d like to know what these problems are about. The Ministry of Transport must review them and submit a report to the government. Mr Sokolov, I will sign a relevant instruction and a protocol after this meeting, but I’d also like to see this report.

It goes without saying that the main point is flight safety. Flight control centres must be fitted out with the latest equipment. I’m ready to listen to your proposals in this sphere. Please, let me know what must be done because it is not acceptable to scrimp on safety. Any accident has wide-ranging repercussions and leads to very serious consequences. I’m sure that we have real professionals with tremendous experience here. This is vital for the reliable organisation of traffic control and for all those who use air services. The task of any organisation is to upgrade the professional skills of its employees. It is necessary both to preserve the continuity of generations and to hire young people.   

I was pleased to see many sport awards showing that local employees care about their health. This is very important because the health requirements are extremely tough, as colleagues have told me. Obviously, the price of a mistake is also very high. Local employees acquire professional skills not only in their student years – they amass tremendous experience throughout their lives. To sum up, we are all interested in turning the Moscow air hub into a top-level international air complex, all the more so since it controls up to 56% of all flights.

Let’s discuss what should be done to achieve this and to develop the entire system of air traffic. Let’s start the meeting. I’d like to ask Alexander Neradko to say a few words and then other colleagues will join in. Please, Mr Neradko, go ahead.

Alexander Neradko (head of the Federal Air Transport Agency): Thank you.     

Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen. Our air navigation systems are dual purpose and ensure the development of both the economy and our defences. The concept of Russia’s air navigation system and the plan for its development were elaborated by the relevant ministries, departments and users of the airspace and approved by the government in 2006 with a view to improving air navigation.

The concept defined the following major indicators of the performance of the air navigation service: national security in the use and control of the airspace; air traffic safety; handling capacity; efficiency and accessibility; environmental protection; and compatibility of air navigation systems. The concept has three main stages lasting to 2025 and is supposed to reach the following goals by that time: a complete transition to the latest equipment and technology; the automated interaction of all major functional components of the air navigation system; the formation of the integrated system of air traffic safety; involving the use of ground-based and onboard systems of detecting and resolving conflicts; broad introduction of the free flight concept and complete integration into the global air navigation system. 

During the implementation of the first stage of the concept we have removed the departmental isolation of military and civilian agencies involved in organising air traffic and guaranteed that a uniform technological policy would be conducted. Since December 20, 2007 military sectors at flight control centres stopped their operation. At the same time, we have taken measures to preserve the unique personnel of the defence sector by retraining and employing them in civilian jobs. To ensure flights by state airlines, over 2,000 civilian specialists have been retrained for working in the former defence sectors.

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Neradko, I have a question. I remember how that decision was made. In fact, I witnessed and played a role in its approval. I wonder how it is done in other countries.

Alexander Neradko: In a number of ways. The military play the key role in many countries, including in Europe and America, as well as in China. However, based on our experience, I’d say that we made the correct decision, and the system proved its viability in a special period during the peace enforcement operation in Georgia in 2008. At that time, we used the integrated system of organising flights, which allowed us to make over 2,500 flights without prior requests by bomber, fighter, military transport and assault aircraft. As a result, the air navigation experts who took part in that operation received commendations from the Defence Ministry leadership.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do you mean that had we used old rules, which divided this work into individual segments, decision-making would have been much more complicated?

Alexander Neradko: It would have taken more time.

Dmitry Medvedev: Alright, go on.

Alexander Neradko: Subsequent work with the new federal rules on using airspace in 2010 led to the establishment of three types of airspace, which allowed for using the notification system of flights in Class G airspace, also known as Golf airspace, which increases the availability of airspace for amateurs and business aviation. In November 2011, reduced altitude (vertical) separation was introduced throughout Russia’s airspace, which allowed us to double the throughput capacity of our airspace.

The second part of measures aimed at creating and developing the air navigation system are being taken within the framework of four federal targeted programmes: Modernisation of the Integrated System of Air Transportation, Improvement of the Federal System of Air Reconnaissance and Airspace Control, Further Development of Russia’s Transport System and GLONASS. These measures are being implemented concurrently with the US NextGen and European Caesar air transportation programmes, which allows for their maximum integration and the creation of a seamless airspace.

The federal programme of modernisation of the integrated system of air transportation provides for integrating the existing 124 flight control centres into 13 large centres, including one in Kaliningrad, improving the structure of airspace, replacing obsolete surveillance, navigation and communication systems and equipment, creating and implementing novel air navigation technology, creating modern aviation and ground equipment for the units of the integrated aerospace search and rescue system, as well as improving the system of weather support.

The main modernisation programme covering the unified system of air traffic organisation has not been adjusted since 2009 despite an almost two-fold reduction in funding over the last three years. But the programme’s targets remain unchanged and cannot be reached unless we have the full amount of funding back. We would like to ask you, Mr Medvedev, to extend the programme till 2020 as in the case of other state and federal targeted programmes. Otherwise Russia’s air navigation system may fall behind the world air navigation system, followed by stagnation of hi-tech industries and research organisations.

This is a highly innovative programme conforming to the Foundations of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Area of Air Activities for the Period till 2020, which you approved in April of this year, and to other strategic documents. While modernising air traffic support equipment and systems, we did much to implement the federal targeted programme aimed at upgrading airspace reconnaissance and surveillance systems. As of today, we have brought to required equipment levels 47 out of 74 of the Federal Air Transport Agency’s dual-purpose airway radars; control centres are being equipped with digital systems for interaction with the reconnaissance and surveillance system. This has helped to expand the airspace under the Defence Ministry’s control by 1.8 million square kilometres at an altitude of 10 thousand metres.

Modern air navigation systems make a wide use of satellite technologies. Pursuant to the GLONASS Federal Targeted Programme, the Federal Air Transport Agency has been introducing ground-based functional augmentations and landing systems in airports (these functional augmentations have been commissioned in 44 airports). We have also been installing automatic dependent surveillance equipment, some of which you could see today during our tour. These pilot projects have been implemented in the Moscow Centre and on Yamal Peninsula. We have been implementing the ADS-Baltic Programme which creates the preconditions for transitioning to new, more precise and less costly air traffic control technologies.

Since we are visiting the Moscow Automated Air Traffic Control Centre and have already walked around the premises, I will not dwell on the parameters, the arithmetic data on air traffic intensity, the surveillance area, etc. However, I should say that a radar data display backup system was installed in 2008-2011, in addition to a planning system. The backup system became operational in November 2011. The financing – 557 million roubles – came from extrabudgetary sources.

A new 2.3 billion rouble flight control centre is under construction. It will go on stream on December 15. This year’s financing for the project is 1.3 billion roubles. The main building has been  built and is now at the interior finishing stage. The bulk of the required equipment has already been purchased.

Dmitry Medvedev: Where is the new building?

Alexander Neradko: Fifty metres from here.

Dmitry Medvedev: But it is not yet ready to host a meeting?

Alexander Neradko: It is still under construction.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Fine. We will meet there next time.

Alexander Neradko: The bulk of the automated system equipment has been purchased and the software is being developed. We have started installing the air traffic control equipment in control rooms.

To increase the airspace throughput capacity in the Moscow zone, research companies, air traffic controllers, representatives of airlines and airports have used cutting-edge technology to develop an innovative airspace structure.

This innovative structure offers a range of benefits. It provides for non-conflicting take-off and landing patterns, divides the traffic, so as to use several runways simultaneously, and eliminates complicated intercepts. The new structure will help increase the Moscow air zone's throughput capacity by 50-100%. The Ministry of Transport, the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) and the federal executive agencies concerned continue to work on cutting the no-flight zones and restricted flight zones – and not only in the Moscow flight zone.

Dmitry Medvedev: What is a two-level holding pattern? What does this mean?

Alexander Neradko: This means that jets cross at different flight levels – different altitudes – while in the holding area. One under the other.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do you mean that the new system does this better?

Alexander Neradko: Yes. The fact that we have adopted the Reduced Vertical Separation Minima also helps. We have not yet reached an agreement on optimising the boundaries of the 26 no-flight and restricted flight zones of the 119 established for the Ministry of Defence, Rosatom, the Moscow government and the Roscosmos space agency. The work is still under way and it should be completed soon to optimise the airspace structure in the Moscow flight zone. This is very important.

Dmitry Medvedev: Why have you been unable to optimise the boundaries?

Alexander Neradko: We still have a number of disagreements.

Dmitry Medvedev: Who is responsible for this?

Alexander Neradko: A working group has been set up upon a government order, which is led by the Ministry of Transport. But the Ministry of Defence and other agencies have very rigid positions on many issues.

Dmitry Medvedev: What percentage of the zones are still without an agreement?

Alexander Neradko: Twenty-six of 119; that is agreement has been reached on four-fifths of the zones…

Dmitry Medvedev: What was the deadline for the agreement?

Alexander Neradko: Last spring.

Valery Okulov (Deputy Transport Minister): February.

Dmitry Medvedev: So, an agreement was supposed to be reached before the end of February?

Valery Okulov: We are developing this zone anyway, taking into account the existing restrictions. It will be defective in a way, but we have to work with what we have.

Dmitry Medvedev: But maybe we should go ahead and simply compel all of them to come to terms? I think this is the way to go. If we want to establish a universal instrument we should be persistent. Please, follow up on this issue. I will talk to other ministers, if need be, to complete this work.

Alexander Neradko: The aforementioned package of implemented and planned measures is primarily aimed at ensuring traffic safety. In accordance with international standards, the federal state unitary enterprise State Air Traffic Management Corporation has introduced a system of controlling air traffic safety.

The current indicators of air traffic safety correspond to the norms of the federal targeted programme and even exceed them. However, it is necessary to continuously monitor the safety level and eliminate any risks that emerge at subsequent stages of the development of the air navigation system. Upkeep must be constant. Obviously, flight safety depends on the high professional skills of air traffic controllers.

The aforementioned state corporation pays special attention to the training of personnel. It organises retraining and upgrading courses. At present, it has trained more than 5,500 specialists with the knowledge of English at ICAO’s fourth level, which is required for radio and telephone communication in English. In the past five years, the corporation spent more than 550 million roubles for these purposes.

The programme for the creation and development of an air navigation system includes a section titled Resolution of Social Problems. There is a proposal to compile a report on social and labour relations and tackling these issues for the director general of the State Air Traffic Management Corporation Valery Gorbenko. And, of course, I want to say that the Russian Federation has a great transit potential in its ​​airspace. Huge transit potential! Our foreign clients are sufficiently confident in the operations of our air traffic management system. This is evidenced solely by the fact that in 2001, we opened polar routes to regular flights. In the first year, there were just under 300 flights on these routes. In 2011, there were more than 10,000 flights. And a survey of pilots of foreign airlines, members of the international organisation of international carriers, shows that they... They say that the quality of air navigation services in the Russian Federation is on a par with the rest of the world. Of course, there are problems, we know about them and we know the solutions, and we continue to work on them. Thank you for your attention.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much, Mr Neradko. Mr Gorbenko (addressing Valery Gorbenko), if you please.

Valery Gorbenko (director general of the State Air Traffic Management Corporation): Mr Medvedev, colleagues, my company serves an area of ​​26,000,000 square kilometres, with more than 600,000 kilometres of air routes. We currently employ 26,500 people. We have 15 branches from Kaliningrad to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, with 61 operations centres as part of the branches. These are district and regional centres including the main centre for planning and directly managing air traffic control, as well as more than 250 airfield centres.

Social and labour relations at the company are based on the standards set out in the Labour Code and collective agreements concluded at each branch. The company currently has 15 collective bargaining agreements that are being implemented in full.

In accordance with the collective agreements, we are building social partnerships with employee representatives. The company works with more than 326 primary trade union organisations – some of them are incorporated into three nationwide federal unions and the rest are independent.

We spend over 50 million roubles per year on professional trade union activities. Several social programmes form the basis of social benefits and guarantees which are incorporated in the collective agreement. In all, we spent over 1.7 billion roubles on the collective bargaining agreement, on social benefits and guarantees, in 2011. We have allocated more than two billion roubles for 2012. The allocations for social benefits and guarantees have increased by 50% during four years. The social package includes free passage for employees to anywhere in the world – any employee can travel for free to any part of the world at the company's expense and have a 50% discount for one family member. The company spends more than 500 million roubles per year on this. If we take spending per employee on the whole of the social package, it was more than 65,000 roubles in 2011 and 75,000 roubles is already budgeted for 2012.

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Gorbenko, what is the average wage in the industry?

Valery Gorbenko: Regarding wages, the average salary in the company is currently 65,600 roubles and 88,500 roubles at the centre in Moscow. The air traffic controllers earn 88,000 roubles and 100,000 in the Moscow centre.

Remark: 130,000 roubles is the average salary of air traffic controllers at the Moscow centre.

Valery Gorbenko: This is the Moscow centre, yes. And the head of operations at the Moscow centre earns about 180,000 roubles. This is due to the intensity being the very highest, with a greater strain on the air traffic controllers, so there is a higher average salary.

You have just mentioned that you can see our focus on physical fitness. We have budgeted about 100 million roubles for physical fitness and sports in 2012, and the company and Moscow centre teams are world and European champions in hockey and football among aeronautical businesses. Therefore, we do focus on it.

We have a private pension fund, and today there are over 3,500 employees who are already receiving pensions. This year, the company will contribute to the fund about 192 million roubles and there are annual increases. Payments range from 1,300 to 9,500 roubles, but these are for employees who started participating in this programme ten years ago and made contributions themselves in addition the company's contributions.

The company has a housing programme that has been in existence for four years now. We budgeted more than 300 million roubles in 2012, and we have spent a total of 1.3 billion roubles on this. We primarily provide young graduates of higher educational institutions and secondary vocational training schools. I am referring to air traffic controllers and engineers from the radio equipment and telecom service. We cover 50% of rent paid by these specialists during the first five years after their graduation. If a centre is getting bigger, as has often been the case recently, we cover mortgage down payments or advance payments for home buying.

We have many other social programmes that contribute to creating a favourable work environment at our enterprise.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Valery Gorbenko: Turnover is down now. When we started, 2,000 to 3,000 people would leave their jobs and about the same number were hired on a yearly basis.

Dmitry Medvedev: When was that?

Valery Gorbenko: That was before 2008. Turnover is down a lot now, to 1,000 employees a year. Most people leave when they retire for age or health reasons.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Thank you, Mr Gorbenko. We have a representative of the main profession in the industry here. Perhaps, you can tell us about your work?

Andrei Bulin (air traffic controller at the Moscow Automated Air Traffic Control Centre): May I?

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, please go ahead. Are there any problems? Things look good and smooth. And salaries are good, too.

Andrei Bulin: My name is Andrei Bulin. I am an air traffic controller at the Moscow Automated Air Traffic Control Centre. The guy who does the actual job.

With regard to problems, you were right when you said that we are waiting for the commissioning of a new air traffic control centre. All the problems currently facing us are due to the old and obsolete Terkas equipment. It can’t handle the existing workload. We are at a point where we cannot increase the number of flights in the Moscow area, because it will affect flight safety. We can handle more flights only during night hours. This question should go to the planning department. We are asking specifically to spread the workload evenly across the 24-hour period, so that we don’t have to deal with peak loads of up to 45-50 aircraft per hour in the morning and evening hours. This creates holding areas that always give rise to conflicts and major difficulties. They say that they will commission the new centre in December. However, I am very sceptical about this timing, since, as we heard today, the structure of air areas hasn’t been approved and there are unresolved issues with the Defence Ministry. New equipment is not available yet and executives from the Moscow Centre confirm this in their interviews. In other words, our only hope is that technical requirements will be fulfilled. Given this, launching a new centre in a matter of five months and expecting it to become fully operational is totally unrealistic. For example, a similar centre in Sweden was put into operation over a period of two years. It takes time to install new equipment, establish a new structure and train employees.

The next problem has to do with lack of regulated throughput capacity. I sent you a written request during the meeting on October 30, 2011. Unfortunately, this issue remains open. There are no regulations. An air traffic controller cannot request to limit the number of flights if he feels that he can’t handle more than he already does. We are human, and asking us to control up to twenty moving objects in a 3D environment is unrealistic. It’s hard to talk about flight safety in these conditions.

We need regulations in order to take care of precisely these issues. The future centre’s needs can only be met with these regulations in place. The use of air transport is increasing, but regulations are lagging behind. There’s a need to address organisational issues, establish conflict-free arrangements, upgrade equipment in a timely manner and update documents. We have concerns about the documents that we are using in our work as well. There’s a lot of talking on the air, but occasionally air traffic controllers can’t catch important things in this chaotic environment. So, it doesn’t make sense when they say that the throughput capacity is increasing. No one can calculate it, it’s a chaotic environment. As someone with hands-on experience, I do not understand how one can increase this chaos even more. This is, briefly, what I have to say about the work I do.

Now, briefly with regard to social partnership. I disagree when they say that all 15 agreements are being complied with in our state corporation. For example, the Moscow centre’s collective agreement was not fulfilled with respect to salary adjustments on  January 1, 2011. There is a ruling on this matter by a Moscow court of  May 24. As far as I can tell from the statement of the general director, there are no plans to act on this ruling, and we don’t know where to apply next. That’s all I have to say about our problems briefly.

Dmitry Medvedev: What specific part of the court ruling regarding the collective agreement is not fulfilled? What particular rules of the collective agreement?

Andrei Bulin: The issue is about the salary adjustment that was supposed to take place on  January 1, 2011. It’s part of the collective agreement. We applied to the Labour Inspectorate which issued an instruction. The state corporation challenged this instruction in court. However, the court ruled to keep the instruction in force on May 24.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Thank you. Does anyone else want to comment?

Mikhail Vatulin (senior air traffic controller at the district air traffic control centre): Now that the unions had their say, I would also like to add a few words. I combine the job of a senior air traffic controller with the duties of the chairman of the union of air traffic controllers at the Moscow centre. We just met. My name in Mikhail Vatulin.

Since this is a candid conversation, I believe I should say things that you can’t read in reports or on websites. The things reported by Mr Neradko and Mr Okulov can be found in open sources.

Speaking about the new Moscow centre, which is our long-standing problem, I would like to go back to 2010 when I addressed Mr Neradko in writing to let him know that the new Moscow centre is unlikely to be commissioned in December 2011. In his reply, Mr Neradko wrote that since it’s in the federal targeted programme, it will. Later, in the spring of 2011, Mr Okulov was told in a conversation that the centre won’t be launched on time.

“They’ll launch it all right if they have to,” was his answer. Now we find out that the new Moscow centre will open on December 15. International practice shows that it’s impossible to meet such a close deadline, considering what we have ready for now. The premises have been under construction for a year and a half, and we still cannot hold a meeting or a conference there.

Dmitry Medvedev: I was just asking why we did not hold our meetings in the new building.

Mikhail Vatulin: It’s impossible to install all the software and other equipment, retrain the staff, and do everything else in this timeframe. A Swedish company has tried to do something similar. I was told the company that manufactured the TERCAS system is installing a pre-planned system in Riga. The company has vast experience and a tremendous potential, and still they need two years – a year to install it and another year to work out all the kinks. It also took a long time to fine-tune the Swedish system we have here.

Now we find out that we will receive an efficient system on December 15. Have I got that right? In the end, we’re going to launch the system with a bang, take photos to show that it’s ready, and then return to TERCAS or take up the standby system that has just been installed. What other options do we have? I don’t know what will come out of it. This is the third time I am speaking on the issue, and I am sure the system can’t be launched by December 15.

I am not trying to find fault. I just want to say that when we try to solve a problem, we need to have a clear perspective on it. To see how we can increase the Russian airspace capacity, starting with the Moscow airside, we must first take stock of what we have and plan new construction accordingly. Possibly, the federal targeted programme deadline should be put off to 2020, as Mr Neradko requested today. The problem demands sober analysis and realistic planning. The programme must be practicable – not like now, when we are left wondering about the state of the new airside while it’s four months behind schedule, as we have just found out.

I want to mention another huge problem of air traffic control – my colleagues asked me to raise this issue. That’s personnel training and retraining. We spoke about it today. We have top-notch personnel and relevant training programmes in place. However, we have great difficulties with the English language. The problem is not how well our people speak it but in keeping up their fluency.

It has been accepted worldwide that it is best to study English in the countries where it is actually spoken. We have our means to tackle the problem. We had an excellent study programme, used by young specialists, who are quick on the uptake. The older controllers went to the UK, which was the best possible option. Now, we are learning English in Russia. We will encounter the problem next year, when we have a peak number of employees taking advanced English exams. At the moment we have small groups of ten people or so enrolled in these classes.

Dmitry Medvedev: Who does the language certification for you: is it the ICAO or some other agency? Who are the examiners?

Mikhail Vatulin: Russian examiners with relevant qualifications.

Dmitry Medvedev: So these experts receive ICAO certificates and are supposed to be trusted?

Mikhail Vatulin: That’s right. We have enough examiners to conduct the language tests. However, the majority of air traffic controllers think the system could be improved, and I agree with them. Young promising people tend to be the most dissatisfied. They should go to the UK to learn the language – it really makes a difference.

We have talked about social partnership here. I would like to make an additional point. Regrettably, employers have no representation in civil aviation – I don’t mean traffic control but the entire industry. We have very many employers but there are no tools for concluding, let say, a tariff agreement or any other contract with their spokesmen. National trade unions cannot negotiate on tariff agreements – there’s no one to talk to. I think this problem must be addressed because the industry needs all-round development, if our talk has turned to the whole industry. Not only automated air traffic control and not only aircraft – there should be comprehensive development in every area. The best solution would be to get social partnership going.

We have many problems. I think I have mentioned the basic ones. Mr Medvedev, I would like… Here is a synopsis of the six issues that are in the foreground today. I will not speak about them – I am sure they will come up later but I would like to ask you to have a look at this paper.

Dmitry Medvedev: Could you pass it to me, please? (Vatulin passes him the paper.) I am pressed for time, so I will not repeat things now.

Mikhail Vatulin: Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do air traffic controllers and other people employed in aviation have any other ideas?

Andrei Pralich (controller with the district air traffic control centre): Mr Medvedev, may I add a few words?

Dmitry Medvedev: Go ahead, please.

Andrei Pralich: My name is Andrei Pralich. I am the chairman of the representational body at the local branch of the Moscow Centre for Automated Air Traffic Control. I fully agree with what my trade union colleagues have said. I would just like to make a few remarks on our other problems, which also need to be addressed. These issues have been raised several times, and we will continue to raise them in the future. The first issue concerns our pensions. Air traffic controllers demand that their pensions should equal those of pilots. We have submitted our proposals in line with the established procedure.

Another problem concerns young specialists’ army service. Young men start work at our centre after graduating from college and are called up for a year after they complete the initial training. Their training costs a lot of money but many of them don’t return to the job after they are demobbed. This problem must be addressed. Mr Neradko said that we used to employ military officers from colonel down to lieutenant for military craft control. Now, military and civil air traffic has been amalgamated. Possibly, the problem could be settled at the Cabinet level.

Dmitry Medvedev: What do you think needs to be settled?

Andrei Pralich: We should introduce five-year contracts with young specialists. They could cater for military aircraft. That would be equivalent to active service on a special contract or we could use some other system. That would be something like alternative service.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. You mean air traffic controllers’ job could be made into a form of alternative service?

Andrei Pralich: Yes, something like that. This issue must be addressed. We discussed it with the chairman of the State Duma Transport Committee and other Duma deputies a year and a half ago. They jotted it down but shelved it afterwards despite all their promises.

Dmitry Medvedev: But then, this issue is not for them to decide.

Andrei Pralich: But they can make relevant proposals.

I would also like to say a few words about the introduction of wage adjustment. The relevant decision of the Moscow City Court has been blatantly ignored. As chairman of a representational body, I can say the following: 15 of our branches have concluded employment contracts since April 1, 2011, which envisage annual wage adjustment, starting July 1 every year.

There was a discrepancy with contract termination. Our contract expired on December 31 while the other 14 branches had contracts up to March 31, with wage adjustments arranged differently. Our contract stipulated adjustments twice a year. We have an oral agreement with the branch director, and a similar written agreement was signed later, by which employees promised not to demand raises twice a year because the other branches have them once a year. Our wages are adjusted by increasing the 1st class prime rate of the unified pay scale by a sum established in our company, the State Corporation for Air Traffic Organisation.

We did not add the relevant clause to the employment contract in time, and had to resolve the issue in court. The Moscow City Court verdict was based on the facts, and was in favour of adjustment. However, we cannot introduce pay adjustment for every branch. Neither can the company CEO. This is a tangled matter though the court verdict has to be complied with.

Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t quite see your point, Mr Pralich. Do you demand that the court verdict is enforced?

Andrei Pralich: It must be enforced but that implies many problems because it clashes with other legislation.

Dmitry Medvedev: It’s always hard to implement court decisions. Thank you. I' would like also to hear about the Almaz-Antei Concern. Please say a few words, and then I’ll summarise it all with consideration for everything that’s been said. This is a productive discussion. Go ahead please.

Vladislav Menshchikov (CEO of Almaz-Antei Concern): Thank you, Mr Medvedev. Our company has been appointed as the only contractor for the federal targeted programme Air Traffic Development and Modernisation which includes the federal air traffic control system of course. The adoption of these programmes demands a coordinated effort by technical specialists and the industry in general, not just our company. That’s why an association of about 50 research and industrial companies was formed in 2008 to develop cutting-edge equipment that meets programme objectives and to ensure the production of the equipment within programme limits.

As for the issue the traffic controllers raised today, possibly the most essential matter concerns the establishment…

Dmitry Medvedev: You mean the new centre?

Vladislav Menshchikov: …of the Moscow centre. Other issues are informative and do deserve attention, but they are more generally routine matters.

The Moscow centre will serve the largest hub and the most difficult zone. The technical development plan sets specific requirements on the fourth automation level, which is the highest according to international standards. When the contract was signed, everyone knew we had a tough job ahead because the basic version of the automated system that we intended…

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Menshchikov, when was the contract signed?

Vladislav Menshchikov: In 2009.

Dmitry Medvedev: In 2009, you say? With a 2011 deadline?

Vladislav Menshchikov: Yes, the end of the year. The terms of the contract were unfeasible for a number of objective reasons, and I don’t blame the state corporation, our client, for these terms. We expected to meet the deadline together despite everything, but we ran into difficulties, so the term was extended even before the end of last year. There are no big problems with the hardware – we have received it, for the most part, and the construction and finishing work proceed on schedule. The major problem we have concerns the software installation.

Dmitry Medvedev: Who developed it?

Vladislav Menshchikov: Our company. The basic part belongs to the St Petersburg-based All-Russia, formerly All-Union Institute of Radio Equipment. The cutting-edge control system in the Moscow centre is based on an automated air traffic control system, which no one in Europe has surpassed to this day. It’s an improved basic version, with third-level automation in keeping with Europe’s current technology. It was introduced in Khabarovsk last year. State testing is over, and it is performing successfully. ICAO management highly appreciates it.

The Moscow centre’s situation is very specific. We’ll finish construction and equipment assembly, and install the software before December 15, though two of its functions will not be operative at that time. I think we’ll be through with those by the middle of next year.

Dmitry Medvedev: Okay, but I just want you to answer our question: where will the controllers work after December 15 – here or at the new centre? You say everything will be assembled and the walls painted, and the place will be suitable for meetings, but where will they work?

Vladislav Menshchikov: In both places. This centre will certainly continue to operate. It cannot be closed before everything in the new centre is completely functional and every employee receives the necessary training.

Dmitry Medvedev: Then, I have another question: how much time will you need for adjusting this unique software? Everyone can see that this is a formidable technical challenge, but please say just when we can expect the new centre to be completely operational.

Vladislav Menshchikov: It takes a year or two according to international standards.

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s just what your colleagues said.

Vladislav Menshchikov: So I think we need two years for a complete transition.

Dmitry Medvedev: So the centre will be ready at the end of this year while the transition period will take another two years. Have I got it right?

Vladislav Menshchikov: It is possible that we’ll manage it sooner, in a year to 18 months. But that’s a very optimistic forecast.

Dmitry Medvedev: Everyone says it takes two years in other countries. I doubt we’ll be much quicker.

Vladislav Menshchikov: Most probably it will be two years at the soonest, after all.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Vladislav Menshchikov: We’ll certainly meet the contract terms formally, but more time will be needed for it to become fully operational.

Dmitry Medvedev: But why did the contract specify two years? Didn’t you understand the task set?

Vladislav Menshchikov: Well it’s possible to make the hardware in two years but it’s a much tougher job to fully reorganise the working processes.

Dmitry Medvedev: Was there a tender or wasn’t?

Vladislav Menshchikov: There wasn’t, we were the sole applicants.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. So, colleagues…

Radik Babakhanov (Deputy Head of the Moscow Regional Centre for Coordination and Use of Airspace): Mr Medvedev, there are two problems. My name is Radik Babakhanov. I am the deputy head of the Moscow regional centre.

Dmitry Medvedev: Go ahead please.

Radik Babakhanov: I’ll take up just three minutes of your time. Two issues remained unresolved when the military and civil sections of the air traffic control service were amalgamated in 2007. The first concerns accommodation for retired servicemen who received jobs at the Federal Air Transport Agency. Many never got what they were entitled to. There are six such people in our Moscow centre alone.

Dmitry Medvedev: What accommodations do you mean?

Radik Babakhanov: Housing.

Dmitry Medvedev: How many of these servicemen are there?

Radik Babakhanov: Six at the Moscow centre. They were to receive flats within six months after retirement but after five years they still haven’t received them. We’ve appealed to the highest authorities…

Dmitry Medvedev: Who was supposed to provide them with accommodation?

Radik Babakhanov: The Defence Ministry.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. What’s the other issue?

Radik Babakhanov: The other issue concerns property transfers from disbanded military units – land plots and buildings.

Dmitry Medvedev: Who is supposed to take them over?

Radik Babakhanov: The Federal Air Transport Agency, according to the decree.

Dmitry Medvedev: Transferred to the Federal Air Transport Agency from the Defence Ministry?

Radik Babakhanov: Yes. It’s a 0.6 hectare plot behind a fence next to a new building under construction. The land belonged to my unit.

Dmitry Medvedev: So you served there?

Radik Babakhanov: Yes, I was responsible for its disbandment.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. What’s on this land now?

Radik Babakhanov: A house and a garage complex. A leaseholder has been appointed.

Dmitry Medvedev: On what grounds was the property handed over?

Radik Babakhanov: By presidential decree, before 2005…

Dmitry Medvedev: I see.

Radik Babakhanov: There are similar problems in other centres, as far as I know.

Remark: It’s a real problem. We could do with that land.

Dmitry Medvedev: It doesn’t matter whether you need it or not. The land was supposed to be handed over.

Remark: The problem today involves the federal targeted programme. We can’t obtain a construction permit to install our equipment because we can’t get hold of the land.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Please tell me again so I understand correctly: the Defence Ministry was supposed to hand over the land in compliance with a presidential decree and other acts?

Response: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: Do the acts directly specify these particular plots of land? It’s a very delicate matter, believe me. Do they directly stipulate the transfer of specific plots of land from the Defence Ministry to the Federal Air Transport Agency?

Response: Yes, there are projects which…

Dmitry Medvedev: Do you have a list, Mr Neradko?

Alexander Neradko: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: I just wanted you to say it. So you have one. And where’s the decree?

Remark: A list of property was drawn up and approved.

Dmitry Medvedev: I’m just reading it. There was a reason for me asking for it. It says:  “The Federal Registration Service shall be entitled to information necessary for its functioning… State unitary companies with property…” So was the property specified or wasn’t?

Alexander Neradko: Yes, there was a list.

Dmitry Medvedev: Which was appended to the decree, was it?

Alexander Neradko: No, we drew it up afterwards.

Dmitry Medvedev: On your own? But was the list approved?

Alexander Neradko: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: And signed by both parties?

Alexander Neradko: By the Chief of the General Staff.

Dmitry Medvedev: All right, I’ll check it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say it again, it’s good I’ve come here because you have many problems, though you are making progress and have good prospects for the future, as I said. We have discussed your prospects, so let’s move on to the problems you mentioned.

I won’t begin with what we’ve been talking about these last 15 or 20 minutes but with the overall situation. If the federal targeted programme needs to be amended, let’s do so because it’s pointless making deadlines we can never meet, and allocating grants that will never reach their intended recipients. If the terms need to be extended, let’s extend them. All this must become a part of the state programme that is currently being drawn up. I would ask the minister and the deputy prime minister coordinating this work to add the relevant instructions to the draft programme. Mr Dvorkovich, when will it be ready – at the end of this year or early next year?

Arkady Dvorkovich: By the end of this year.

Dmitry Medvedev: So that means this fiscal year?

Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: So there’s a chance it will get completed?

Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes, it’s already been agreed with the Economic Development Ministry.

Dmitry Medvedev: So it’s almost ready. So much the better.

Let’s move on to the use of the transit potential, which was mentioned by Mr Neradko, the head of the corresponding service. Let us think about how to make the best use of this potential because it’s a major resource and we have a responsibility in this respect. We need to evaluate this potential from both the political and commercial points of view.

The use of satellites came up when we visited the air traffic control centre, it was also mentioned in the presentation. Let us supplement my draft instruction calling on a more active use of satellites. We talked about it two years ago. Now we have GLONASS and GPS, and airlines can easily afford them. We should think about implementing it all to make satellites part of the control system.

As for property delineation with the military, it’s outrageous! I have no idea why this work is so neglected or who is to blame – the Transport Ministry, the Defence Ministry or both. It affects the whole situation and cuts the chances of delivering the new project because, as someone said quite correctly here, everything will remain vague and construction will be shifted from one site to another unless the property is demarcated. Mr Dvorkovich, please talk to Mr Serdyukov and add a proviso to my instruction stating that this work must be completed as soon as possible. That’s a perfectly realistic goal because not that many projects are involved. We must put an end to this mess!

We should also talk about the problems in the industry – what controllers and project managers spoke about. I would like our colleagues from the government to join in and look at the relevant regulatory framework. I heard previously what Mr Bulin said about air traffic control standards and peak load planning. I understand this topic always provokes discussions and there will inevitably be people who are unhappy. Still, we have to tackle the matter, all the more so since an instruction was allegedly issued. We talked about it some time ago and now we need to take stock of what has been done in the interim. If nothing has been done, we will have to focus on the problem at last.

As for collective agreements, I would like Ms Golodets to see what can be done about the wage readjustment misunderstanding and about the court verdict, and then report to me personally. She should also report about the development of social partnership in the industry. The industry has many problems in this respect. There are different approaches here but differences of opinion should not mean we do not address the problems.

While at first glance the question of language studies might appear insignificant, it’s a very important issue. Let us make this clear: I am not convinced you have to go to London to learn English. After all, we are all learning languages, in one way or another. I have nothing against London, don’t get me wrong. It’s good that you have the chance to send your staff there – not necessarily to London, it might be New York or Bombay. However, there are many audio and video facilities now that can be used as teaching aids, and almost all people have computers and can use interactive programmes. We just need to think it all over.

I fully agree with those who say that language learning should not end after a student graduates from university. Everyone needs proper training, that goes without saying. I would like industry spokesmen in the Transport Ministry and the Federal Air Transport Agency to think about where this type of training should be held, and under what curricula. Mr Sokolov, please look into it. The language problem is especially relevant here for obvious reasons.

What was said about pensions and alternative service also needs to be analysed and my instructions drawn up on this matter.

Mr Sokolov, please look into two other open issues – the welfare of military officers who moved over to work in the civil sector, and transfers of property belonging to reformed or disbanded military units from the Defence Ministry to the Federal Air Transport Agency. I am ready to sign the relevant instruction but we first need to understand why all this is happening. I have enough experience of bureaucratic matters to know that, although I cannot be certain, I suspect that either there was an oral agreement made or there is some paperwork which the Defence Ministry is choosing to ignore. We need to get to the bottom of it. If there is a signed document specifying mandatory execution, the ministry must be made to carry it out. However, first we need to see whether the papers signed at that time are legally valid. Decrees are very general. We have to find that particular document.

Finally the opening of the new centre. It’s bad that we take on unrealistic commitments which we then cannot fulfil. There is no way that anyone can be fooled in this instance because everybody understands the complexity of the technical challenge. Everyone knows that even adjusting the project, including testing the software and the parallel or perpendicular operation of the two control systems will require two years minimum. Why, then, did they set these deadlines? In short, I want this matter taken care of. No one is abolishing the December 15 deadline for preparing the premises and equipment assembly, not delivery of the main project. Of course this has to be completed within that timeframe.

As regards testing and delivering a functioning system, please report to me how much time you need. It’s hard not to trust the experts when they say that it’s unlikely to take less than one and a half to two years. You should be aware of this prospect and work consistently. Agreed?

Remark: Yes, Mr Medvedev.

Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you all health and financial and other success. Goodbye.