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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Lifts Advisory On Russia Air Travel

The United States on Friday grudgingly lifted its advisory against air travel in Russia, saying the skies are now sufficiently safe for U.S. officials and private citizens to fly Russian airlines certified for international travel.

But the skies are apparently just barely safe enough. A report released in conjunction with the announcement said Russian air safety earned "minimally passing marks" with respect to international standards and said "immediate steps must be taken to avoid slippage into unacceptable levels."

The travel restrictions will be lifted only from the 167 Russian airlines certified for international travel, out of the 396 airlines that have appeared since the breakup of Aeroflot.

"Given the transitional nature of the Russian economy and with it, its aviation system, it is not surprising that the team found a number of areas that need improvement," said U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. In July, Pickering instructed his staff to avoid Russian airlines, but Friday said solutions to many of the country's aviation problems were within reach.

The report, written by a team of Russian and U.S. experts, contained several strongly worded recommendations on topics ranging from the training of mechanics to the grammar of air traffic controllers.

One important recommendation touched on legal issues. No cohesive Russian code of laws has emerged from the remains of Soviet air travel, and the lack of clear authority among agencies leaves Russia poorly equipped to control its airspace properly.

"Russian air law needs to be re-written immediately, and in the meantime, a presidential decree should be considered," said Anthony Broderick, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator.

The Russian response was to point to the constructive work that lays ahead. "We are well aware that this is only the beginning, that we yet have a lot to do," said Vadim Zamotin, director of the Russian Department of Air Transport. "We will be happy to draw on the experience of the other side, but the American experts have noticed that the Russian flight safety system has several elements that are useful."

The report culminates an evaluation of Russian aviation that began in August under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration Among its 31 conclusions:

?The air transport department must have the money to prevent safety inspectors from leaving for more lucrative jobs in the private sector.

?The department must begin certifying air carriers and maintenance inspectors on Western manufactured aircraft.

?Russia must establish an independent accident investigation authority and charge one authority with all air traffic services.

As if to make amends, the U.S. group also pointed to the strengths in Russian aviation. Pickering's July advisory had sparked considerable outrage from officials who saw his remarks as a thinly veiled insult.

Broderick said improvements in many of the recommended fields has already begun, and shortly, the Russians "will all be teaching us a thing or two about air safety."