Published: 29 Nov 2019
The Russian presidential aircraft plane in the airport of Bishkek. © Sputnik / Aleksey Nikolsky
Vladimir Putin’s plane landing in Bishkek despite heavy fog and high humidity is no reason to doubt the skills of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s pilots, who decided to reroute to another airport, a veteran aviator has said.
The Russian president’s Ilyushin Il-96-300PU was approaching the airport in the capital of Kyrgyzstan late on Thursday after the crew of Shoigu’s plane had already decided against attempting to land in difficult weather conditions.
Airport officials also offered Putin’s pilots the opportunity to reroute to Almaty in neighboring Kazakhstan. But with some 235km (146 miles) separating the two cities, it turned out to be too much of a detour for the Russian leader who had a busy schedule at the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit.
“I’m going to land it,” the president’s pilot told the flight operator, a source at the airport told news outlet Life. “He carried out the landing surgically, despite the strongest fog, acting almost on touch.”
The report was later confirmed by Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who specified that the maneuver didn’t violate any of the clearance allowances for the presidential plane.
By making the decision to perform a “blind” landing, the captain wasn’t endangering the life of Vladimir Putin and others aboard, Oleg Smirnov, a veteran pilot and former Soviet deputy aviation minister, said.
The Russian president’s plane is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation equipment, which allows performing landings blindly – without visual contact with the ground – in automatic mode. The crew is specially trained to carry out such landings.
The incident doesn’t mean that the pilots operating the defense minister’s plane were any less qualified or experienced, Oleg Smirnov pointed out.
“I know this airport quite well. I’ve flown there myself. The fog in Bishkek has one peculiarity due to the proximity to the mountains. It can quickly thicken and melt away equally fast.”
Vladimir Putin heading to Syria aboard the Il-96-300PU in 2017. © Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev
The expert suggested that “the fog could’ve been so thick that there was zero visibility when Shoigu’s plane reached the airport. But after some time, when the president’s aircraft arrived, the fog got thinner.”