Our plane justifies its name. While airborne, the «Goga-Myshka» is all over the place, maneuvering between storm clouds. On the ground, it only needs a few hundred meters to take off and land.
Oleg Stryukovatyi, pilot, aircraft owner: «There was a swamp here. And here. And there. Where the hotel is now, there was a swamp. We had a piece of tarmac runway – 420 meters by 20 and three parkings.
Oleg Stryukovatyi shows us his creation - a small private airfield next to Kirishy. It used to belong to a Kolkhoz - and 30 years ago crop-duster planes took off from here to spray pesticides on the nearby fields. Now two-man airplanes fly here, with a feeling of absolute freedom, unknown to passengers of huge commercial jets. Even military air traffic controllers, who have the right to ban transit flights, respect private pilots and don’t give them hard time for no reason.
Oleg Stryukovatyi, pilot, aircraft owner: «It’s been a while since i last saw a rejection from the military when passing their flight spaces. It’s a big positive, they have my gratitude»
But that’s when the euphoria of small-time aviation ends, and reality kicks in. To discuss it, pilots from dozens of cities across the country have flocked to St. Petersburg for a nationwide conference - the first in the city’s history.
The general purpose aviation (GPA) is a gigantic industry, uniting millions of people across the globe. Around 90 percent of all civic flights worldwide fall under the GPA category - because it’s cheap and comfortable.
Vladimir Tyurin, president of inter-regional civic organization of pilots and plane owners: «Every ruble invested into aviation brings back 5 rubles eventually. A flying aircraft creates jobs and demand for spare parts»
Alexey Mikhalev, reporter: «In the USA, the general purpose aviation employs 1,5 million people, with their total incomes exceeding 50 billion dollars. The overall contribution to the economy is 150 billion. In Europe, the GPA unites more than 8 thousand companies, activities of which are not directly connected with aviation, but they create serious competition for commercial aviation»
What’s most important - you can’t imagine modern life without small-time aviation. The GPA monitors oil pipelines and electric cables, detects heat leaks in cities, used in agriculture, used in pilot training - for private and business flights - and, last but not least, for sanitary and medical needs.
The «Medspas» service began regular flights to road crash sites about a year ago. It has delivered 700 injured to St. Petersburg’s hospitals over that period. That’s roughly 2 persons a day. As a result, fatalities on the roads have shrunk by half. When every minute is valuable, small-time aviation has no alternatives. Many patients with a heart condition were brought from afar in the Leningrad region.
Dmitriy Kozyrev, director general of «Medspas» medical-sanitary service: «It particularly concerns vascular diseases - those preceding strokes and heart attacks. You won’t be able to transport such a patient by car in time. If such a patient doesn’t receive specialized help within 4 hours, it will be practically ineffective»
An aircraft, piloted by German citizen broke the Soviet airspace
May 1987. 18-year-old German pilot Matthias Roost landed his plane in the heart of Moscow. His trick was incredibly audacious and even fatally dangerous. But the Soviet people were most impressed by the fact that anybody in Germany can become a pilot and rent a plane. And now - when the same plane which Roost had, Cessna 172, is now legally sold in Russia and nothing should be hampering the development of small-time aviation - it turns out that things are not that simple.
Oleg Stryukovatyi, pilot, aircraft owner: «Practically all aviation training centers are closed now. It’s a big question - where would one get a private pilot’s license. It’s either «ChelAvia», or in Yekaterinburg, or somewhere in Moscow. But it seems no-one can officially train you in St. Petersburg»
The general purpose aviation is almost invisible in Russia. And it’s not because of red-tape, but because of lack of information. Who knows that a private plane can be bought in Europe for 50-60 thousand Euro?
Vladimir Tyurin, president of inter-regional civic organization of pilots and plane owners: «This must be the biggest problem - people just don’t understand that aviation can be used as easily as a car - for business and private trips»
But there are hundreds of talented manufacturers. You don’t need huge factories and workshops to create small planes like this «Dolphin»
Andrey Podolnitskiy, plane maker, pilot: «One-man planes are not really interesting. You build it for yourself and then get a wish to take friends for a ride»
Nikolay Kuvayev, pilot, president of aeroclub: «Flying at 200-300 meters, we see such beauty of our land that all other countries stand no chance»
At the end of the day, the general purpose aviation in Russia rests on the shoulders of enthusiasts like Oleg Stryukovatyi. In the last 10 years, they have created hundreds of private airfields across Russia only because the sky is part of the country and a comfortable space to live in.