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Russian Airlines Secretly Flying With Fewer Pilots, Raising Safety Risk



MOSCOW - Russian aviation has been making an impact in all the wrong ways. Last May, a new airplane on a demonstration flight in Indonesian crashed into a mountain, killing all 50 people on board. And now Novaya Gazeta has revealed that Russian airlines are using scheduling tricks to cut the number of pilots on long flights.

Many pilots, including the head of the flight crew labor union at the Sheremetyevo Airport, have expressed concern that personnel cutbacks by airlines have made some flights unsafe. According to Russian law, any flight that is longer than 12 hours, including the pilots' pre-and-post flight duties, must have a third pilot on board, in addition to the pilot and second-in-command. In addition, any flight longer than 14 hours must have a complete replacement team.

For comparison, in the U.S., planes are required to have a third pilot on board if the pilots will be on duty for more than nine hours. Aeroflot's flight from Moscow to New York is currently the only flight flying with three pilots, because American authorities have threatened to block any airline that does not follow American flight time rules from flying to the US.

But Aeroflot's Moscow-Tokyo flights, which are longer than the flights to New York, and had been flown with three pilots until the summer of 2011, switched this past winter to strictly two pilots. Igor Deldyuzhov, a former pilot for Aeroflot, says he was fired for insisting on having a third pilot for the flight to Tokyo, Novaya Gazeta reports.

The change, according to Deldyuzhov, was made possible by fudging the flight schedule. Deldyuzhov says the flight time on the pilots' information was 10 hours 45 minutes, a duration based on the actual flight times of the past several flights. The pre-and-post flight duties generally take one and a half hours, which can add up to more than 12 hours. But on the flight schedule, the Moscow-Tokyo flight time was shaved down to 10 hours 20 minutes, Novaya Gazeta reports, allowing it to just barely come in under 12 hours.

What is more, on nighttime flights, pilots are only supposed to be on duty for 11 hours if there are only two in the cockpit, but the Moscow-Tokyo flight, which departs at 9pm and arrives in Tokyo the following morning, is classified as a "daytime" flight because it takes off before 10pm.

The flight time is the same now as it was last year, and planes have not yet begun to fly faster...nor have the two cities gotten any closer to each other.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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