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Small-Plane Aviation in Russia and the Church

Getting Airborne Safely

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Christians care about general aviation in Russia

 

Report

 

M o s c o w -- Dwayne King really cares about the Gospel - but he cares about other things, too. Those “other things” include general aviation – non-government, small-plane air transport. Even after nearly 20 years of trying, the 67-year-old pilot and pastor remains convinced that general aviation will play a major role in the economic development of Russia. All start-ups are small, and King’s flight agency, “Kingdom Air Corps”, has finally been able to help to ship a plane from Seattle/Washington to the Far Eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk. There its licensing and certification are now being processed. The plane, a Cessna 150 two-seater trainer, is owned by the Khabarovsk businessman and aviation enthusiast Anatoly Danielov. Danielov owns a private air strip and even constructed his own plane, a Piper Super Cub.

 

The hard realties of Russian aviation have led King to conclude that general aviation in Russia must be carried out almost strictly by native pilots. Consequently, King has been training Russians at his air base and school at King Ranch, 80 miles from Anchorage/Alaska. Of the 100 pilots he has trained there since 2000 in seat-of-the-pants, wilderness flying, five of them are from Russia. One of those five is Anatoly Danielov. Another close associate is Konstantin Rudoi, a physicist at the Far Eastern State Transportation University in Khabarovsk. This university partners with University of Alaska Anchorage. King also relates to the Aeroflot flight training school in Khabarovsk.

 

“We want to encourage and support aviation enthusiasts”, King explained by phone from the U.S. “We want to help them learn to fly in a safe, legal and responsible way.” The pastor reports that many Russian enthusiasts believe they know how to fly solely on the basis of pilot game software and the Internet. “Many accidents have resulted from the lack of training and this has given general aviation a bad name in Russia.”

 

The barriers to general aviation in Russia are formidable. In a conversation in Moscow, Pastor King reported: “The biggest problems in getting off the ground are bureaucratic. The skies of Eastern Russia are closed to general aviation. We can only fly in very limited, controlled areas. In the Far East, every flight needs to be dispatched. And to be dispatched, you need to pay the weatherman, the plane guard, aircraft maintenance and airport staff, the radio communicator, etc. Flying a small plane from Alaska to Khabarovsk costs at least $10.000.” Moscow region, in contrast, does offer a considerable amount of (very expensive) general aviation.

 

Anatoly Danielov is less diplomatic. He recently wrote in the magazine “Gran”: “Eighty years ago, during the time of hunger and despair, the Soviet government opened the first aero club in Khabarovsk. They gave the money to buy the planes and for many decades supported people who wanted to fly. And it was absolutely free. That was the time of dreamers and heroes, and we know that heroes don't live long. They were followed by cowards and the fearful, who composed hundreds of laws and regulations. They said it's for our own good or, even better, for the good of the country. They have employed thousands of supervisors keen to see the laws enforced, but they don't care about people. They don't see the sky, they don't need it.”

 

The pastor has only been able to make 16 trips in small planes between Alaska and Russia during the course of the past 19 years. King reports that he personally made one of the first missionary flights to Russia. That was for the transport of missionaries from Nome/Alaska to the Russian Far East on 1 September 1991. Missionary aviation societies are still able to make infrequent flights between Alaska and Russia. These include “SOAR International”, “MARC” (Missionary Aviation Repair Center) and “Samaritan’s Purse”. Until recently, “Missionary Aviation Fellowship” maintained an office in Moscow for logistical support – not directly for aviation. They are now moving the majority of their efforts to Siberia. King’s “Kingdom Air Corps” (kingdomaircorps.org) is not a part of the Farmington/Michigan-based “Send International” mission, but the two do have close contact.

 

Despite the major obstacles, King is convinced that his efforts are “worth the bother”. “Small aircraft piloted by Russians are the best and most economic means of serving a roadless region twice the size of the US’ lower 48 states.” King notes that the heavy Soviet-era helicopters used in the Russian North cost $1.500 per hour to rent and burn 100 gallons (379 litres) of fuel per hour. A cheaper option, reindeer, have an over-the-ground speed of four km per hour! Danielov was bowled over by his initial visit to Alaska as King’s guest. He reported in “Gran”, that in Alaska light aviation appears as important as the car. Both men are convinced that light aviation is by far the best option for the economic development of the Russian North and Far East. The model has proven itself in Alaska – and Alaska has a terrain and climate very similar to the Russian Arctic. King adds that change will only occur once sufficient political will on the part of the politically powerful has accumulated. Only then, on the coattails of a massive opening to general aviation, will church-sponsored aviation become a reality.

 

Pastor King, who began flying at age 20 and has flown over 45 types of aircraft, became a missionary pilot in Alaska in 1968. He has also been active as an evangelist, residing full-time in Khabarovsk from 1993-2000. Now he frequently commutes on commercial flights between Alaska and Khabarovsk via South Korea.

 

William Yoder, Ph.D.

Moscow, 22 April 2010

Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance

 

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