Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation

Aerial application season on brink of crisis

The next aerial application season, which traditionally starts in March, may be in jeopardy. Problems with the provision of aerial application services, including crop dusting, derive from legal collisions in the industry’s norms and regulations.

Ways to avoid the possible industry crisis have been discussed by experts at an online conference held by the Analytical Center. Analytical Center experts noted that agricultural aviation is engaged in the global production of food and plant protection both in the farming industry and in forest protection. Currently, the Federal Air Transport Agency has 84 agricultural airlines with a total fleet of 259 aircraft on its register. They provided services for over 5 million hectares of agricultural lands in 2019. Crop dusting by aircraft is 10-12 times more effective than ground-based services and is irreplaceable in the case of particularly dangerous pests. Aerial application raises the crop yield by 15-35% or more.

New federal aviation rules took effect early this year to ensure the compliance with aviation safety requirements. However, in the opinion of market actors, airlines are unable to comply with the rules due to the legal collision.

“For now, territorial departments turn down applications for airworthiness certificates, as they do not understand how to use the new rules. There is only one month left until the beginning of the season. The south is concerned about the new problem more than anyone else. The absence of permits in the beginning of the season may thwart the existent contracts and replace aircraft with ground vehicles,” Aeron Airline Director Igor Popov said.

Aeroprom Airline Director Maria Davydenko said, for her part, that federal aviation rules are crucial for normal operation of the industry. This disciplines the market and allows operators to feel confident and protected and to invest in business development. However, the new rules should be endorsed with due account of interests of market actors, she said.

The experts pointed out that the impossibility to receive aerial application permits will reduce competition, double the cost of works, impact the development of light aviation, and lessen the possibility of support to domestic aircraft manufacturers and modernization of the fleet. A possible result is stagnation; besides, the industry may lose its appeal to investors.

Conference participants proposed a number of measures as a way to solve the problem. For instance, the validity of the existent airworthiness certificates could be extended for one year since the date of issuance and the existent permits could be used till their expiry date. That will allow airlines to prepare for certification consistent with new federal aviation rules.