From Siberia to St. Petersburg
Becoming a commercial pilot in Russia

Mikhail Genkin (23 years) grew up in the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg, also known as the Venice of the North. He completed his training as commercial pilot at the Sasovo Civil Aviation Flight School, one of the leading pilot schools in Russia.


Pilot Training

“Becoming a pilot in Russia takes a substantial amount of time”, explains Mikhail. “There are only 7 places where you can get a commercial pilot license. For private pilot training, there are more locations, but not so many either.”

Two of these places are state universities. There is one in Saint Petersburg and another one in Ulyanovsk. The other places are sub-branches of those universities, like the flight school in Sasovo. More than 23,000 pilots have graduated from ‘Sasovskoe’. The difference between the training at the university and the sub-branches is the total duration and the diploma that you then acquire. Commercial pilot training at the university lasts five years, including 150 flying hours on single and multi-engine aircraft. After 5 years, you will then have a university degree in your pocket, as well as a commercial flying license. The training at the sub-branches takes only three years.

The big advantage in Russia, however, is that the training can potentially be free! Every year the government issues a budget to the universities and the sub-branches to form pilots. If you pass the entrance tests, you can claim such free training. If that doesn’t work, you can still take one of the paid courses. The cost is slightly more expensive than a comparable commercial pilot training in Europe and America.


Then came corona

“When the pandemic struck and airlines in Russia stopped hiring, I could join a company that performs forest air patrol over Siberia. I worked for this company for a couple of months, as a pilot on Cessna 172.”, says Mikhail. “At the end of the season, my friend Vasily and I ferried the airplane from Siberia all over to St. Petersburg. That trip was an amazing experience!”

Meanwhile, Mikhail got hired by Pobeda (Победа – Russian for “Victory”), a low-cost airline with scheduled services mainly from Vnukovo International Airport. He is currently taking his line training as first officer on Boeing 737-800. “I am delighted with this opportunity and I look forward to gaining experience as an airline pilot. At the same time, I also plan to keep my piston aircraft licenses valid.”

Mikhail enjoys all kinds of sports, such as wall climbing and hiking. “The road to becoming a pilot is the same as climbing rocks.”, Mikhail concludes, “The view from the top makes it worth it!”


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