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Russian Pilots Vow Strike on Safety Fears

May 15, 1994| Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russian airline pilots are threatening to strike because of a growing number of crashes and are demanding the government enforce air safety in the country's chaotic skies.

The pilots, who earn as little as $21 a month, also want better pay.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in December, 1991, led to the breakup of Aeroflot, once the world's largest airline, into hundreds of tiny carriers that have often failed to maintain their aging fleets of jets.

Airline passengers are far more likely to be killed in crashes in Russia than elsewhere in the world. Last month, an international organization strongly recommended that travelers avoid flying over any part of the former Soviet Union.

The number of fatalities per 1 million passengers, used internationally as a safety indicator, has been rising steadily in Russia since the Soviet breakup, from one in 1990 to 5.5 in 1993.

With two major crashes this year that killed almost 200 people, the rate jumped to 32 in the first quarter of 1994, a level described as "unprecedented and intolerable" in the newspaper Segodnya.

The international average has been less than one fatality per 1 million passengers.

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