Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined the effort to put out wildfires during his visit to the Ryazan Region. He took the copilot’s seat and operated the controls to collect water and dump it on sections of burning forest. The Be-200 amphibious aircraft collected water twice and put out two fires during the thirty-minute flight.
Vladimir Putin’s time in the copilot’s seat was not planned. The prime minister left the cabin and entered the cockpit, much to the surprise of Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ryazan Region Governor Oleg Kovalyov, who were also onboard.
This was not the first time Putin operated a plane. In October 1999, he made a ten-minute flight in a Su-25UB ground-attack aircraft during his visit to a training base of the Krasnodar Higher Aviation Academy. On March 2000, Putin, who was acting president at the time, flew from Krasnodar to Grozny in a Su-27UB fighter aircraft. Putin took the controls for eight minutes of the flight.
In 2005, Putin, as president, flew a Tu-160 Pavel Taran strategic bomber to the training grounds for strategic long-range aircraft and the Northern Fleet, where he observed the launch of cruise missiles. The flight lasted for 5 hours. Putin sat in the pilot-in-command seat. The Tu-160 was refueled in-flight by an Il-78 aircraft.
Fires are still raging in twenty-two regions of Russia. The situation is most serious in the Belgorod, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Tambov regions and the Republic of Mordovia. Fifty-two people have been killed in the fires and about 3,500 have been left homeless.