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By late 2004 Moscow's Domodedovo airport will start landing aircraft even under poorest meteorological conditions
Ongoing there at the moment are completion works accomplishing a large-scale project on upgrading the aerodrome complex to bring it in compliance with category 3 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Only one airport of the Russian capital - Sheremetyevo-2 has so far had the capability of landing aircraft in bad weather, since it is equipped and, hence, certified to comply with the same highest category. Now Domodedovo airport is also being fitted with special illumination equipment, up-to-date pavement, particular marking and automatics. It will provide for the maximum distance, at which a pilot of an aircraft can see the runway's marking and the boundary and axis lights. Under poor visibility this equipment helps an aircraft to land at the point of destination. According to the Domodedovo employees, the upgrade will increase the airport's landing capacity by 10%. Although in reality category 3 differs from category 2, but still it is not a panacea. In difficult conditions the pilot does not land his aircraft himself, but engages the autopilot system. When automatic landing is applied the airport's landing capacity goes down, which is also the case for major airports. So, bringing the airport to the highest category is to great extent the matter of prestige, since all over the world all large international airports are authorized for category 3 landing. As for Russia, recently most of the airports have been equipped under category 2 or frequently category 1 in the ICAO classification, which can be logically explained: all runways in the country are not subject to privatization, since they are of strategic importance. As for Domodedovo airport, the construction works are funded by a private company, which has assumed administration of the airport. According to its head Dmitry Kamenshchik, the project is estimated at $3-3.5 million. Another factor, containing development of Russia's airport, has always consisted in the extremely small numbers of modern aircraft in the inventory of Russian airlines. Today approximately 90% of them operate homemade aircraft equipped with simplest avionics. They also lack specially trained crews. At the same time, in accordance with the international standards both aircraft and pilots have to be entitled to category 3 landing to obtain a respective certificate. Nevertheless, lately Russia has had to be geared to foreign airlines, which have got used to good service and high technological level of international airports. So, one may safely say that Domodedovo airport, which has recently been carrying out intensive cooperation with foreign airlines, had no choice. To surrender to bad weather would mean to lose competitiveness and, hence, failure to participate in the contest for the role of the intercontinental Eurasian transit hub, announced by Russia's transport minister.
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