27 February, 2019

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it is a dog!

Photo Aeroflot
How many airlines in the world have their own breed of sniffer dogs?   I can only find one,  that is the Russian airline Aeroflot. 

Earlier this week the airline presented its own Shalaika breed of sniffer dogs to the canine community at the Eurasia 2019 International Dog Exhibition organised by the Russian Cynological Federation, which certified the Shalaika breed at the end of last year.

Aeroflot’s dog handlers presented the dogs and showed videos about the training process as well as the Company’s own recent development – the olfactory monitoring system. The dogs then demonstrated their skills by finding objects with explosive substances inside.

Finding explosives is the key duty of the Shalaikas. Everyday dog handlers and dogs patrol the airport and inspect planes to ensure safety. Due to their sharp sense of smell Shalaika sniffer dogs have proven to be much more reliable than any kind of equipment designed to detect explosives.

The canine service of Aeroflot’s security department was established in 2001 and today employs 29 dog handlers and 55 dogs. The Shalaika breed was developed by Klim Sulimov, a renowned Russian biologist, who has long been working with Aeroflot’s security department. It is a jackal-dog hybrid originating from an initial cross-breed of a Lapponian Herder and a Turkmen golden jackal. Shalaikas are small and agile allowing them to move freely in confined spaces such as the aircraft cabin and compartments.

Building on the successes of its dog service, Aeroflot introduced olfactory monitoring – a hardware and software system that includes special gear for dogs to help identify the nature of substances they detect and transmit information to an operator’s computer. Olfactory monitoring also allows for remote analysis of an air environment. It is used for inspecting areas that are not easily accessible even for dogs – cargo containers and aircraft technical compartments. Using special equipment, our security personnel takes air samples and sends them to the lab for further analysis. Shalaikas’ sharp sense of smell allows them to detect the faintest scents of potentially dangerous substances on the filters through which air samples were pumped.

The Olfactory Monitoring trademark was registered in Russia and 7 other countries – USA, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Aeroflot’s dog service is a regular award-winner. In December 2018, the airline became the first transportation company to win the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering category at the Innovation Time Awards for its international prize-winning “Aeroflot. Sulimov Dogs” project. The airline’s “Sulimov Dogs” Facebook project also took the awards for Travel and Tourism, Digital Media Relations and Community Engagement at the IPRA Golden World Awards.