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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sheremetyevo Rated World Class

Russia finally has a world-class international airport, at least technically.

Sheremetyevo-2 on Tuesday was awarded Category 3 status under the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the highest ranking possible.

The upgrade means Sheremetyevo will be less prone to meteorological hiccups, no longer having to reroute Moscow-bound flights to Helsinki because of poor weather conditions.

Sheremetyevo qualified for the top rating by overhauling its approach and landing systems and by modernizing its lighting and signal systems on tarmacs and taxiways.

Tatyana Anodina, head of the Interstate Aviation Committee, the regulatory body for the Commonwealth of Independent States that issued the ICAO certificate, said that for Sheremetyevo the upgrade from level two to level three is "an important achievement" since as recently as last year it had been threatened with a demotion to level one for "serious technical drawbacks."

"Airlines reproached the airport for the condition of the runways, taxiways, navigation equipment. In record time ... all these problems were resolved," she said.

"The main idea for us was to ensure that planes that leave the airport get back to us regardless of the weather," said Yevgeny Bakhteyev, Sheremetyevo's deputy general director.

The new category allows planes to takeoff and land if runway visibility is at least 200 meters and vertical visibility is at least 15 meters, down from 350 meters and 30 meters, respectively.

Sheremetyevo general director Sergei Belyayev said the rating would ensure better safety and cut down on flight delays. "It gives us an opportunity to reach the international level that our clients expect from us ... confirming our status as Russia's top airport," he said.

Viktor Gorbachyov, president of the Russian Association of Airports, said Sheremetyevo is the only one of the nation's 496 airports to be ranked in ICAO's top category. Within the CIS, only Kiev's Borispol airport has that distinction, he said.

Moscow's two other airports -- Domodedovo and Vnukovo -- and St. Petersburg's Pulkovo are in category two, with the remainder either in category one or unranked.

Sheremetyevo's management would not say how much was spent on the upgrade. Belyayev would only say that the airport spends between $10 million and $15 million annually on its technical maintenance.