Russian pilots to use paper maps as software update goes wrong

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Aeronautical data providers have warned Russian airlines that updated navigational databases lack information on 49 airports.

As a result, pilots will have to use paper maps or directions provided by air traffic controllers while landing at those airports, Russian media reports. 

On December 4, 2020, a new air traffic management structure will be rolled out by the Russian Federal Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) and the State Air Traffic Management Corporation of the Russian Federation. The layout of all routes and corridors, as well as their designations will be overhauled with the aim to make air navigation above Russia more efficient. 

The transition to the new system was announced in 2019. According to government officials, there are no safety risks involved.

But an internal presentation, distributed by the Russian flag carrier Aeroflot and acquired by TV station RBK, warns that providers of navigational data are unable to keep up with the coding of flight procedures due to frequent changes and delays.

Jeppersen (subsidiary of Boeing) and Lido Navigation (subsidiary of Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA)) are the two main providers of aeronautical data to Russian airlines. According to Jeppersen, the data, which should have been provided to the company by the beginning of October 2020, was sent only in late October and early November, and its inclusion into new databases is impossible.

As a result, databases that are due to go online on December 3, 2020, will lack navigational data on 49 airports in Moscow and adjacent regions. Pilots are advised to use paper maps and rely on vectors provided by air traffic controllers upon landing.

Some missing data will be uploaded shortly, but over 30 airports will not appear there before December 30, 2020. Meanwhile, airlines are scrambling to provide their pilots with additional training related to the mishap.

According to news agency Interfax, Andrei Kalmykov, CEO of Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda, appealed to the governor of Yaroslav region asking to send Rosaviatsiya a request to delay the introduction of the new system.

According to Kalmykov, Pobeda will be forced to stop conducting flights until the issue is resolved. 

Meanwhile, a number of other Russian airlines – including Aeroflot, S7 Airlines and Red Wings – stated that they will not cancel any flights, relying on “the readiness of [their] air crews to conduct flights in accordance to changes”, RBK reports.

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