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Until last year- business jet operators flying to and from Russian cities regularly complained they were being treated as an afterthought by Russia’s major airports. Maintenance had been an even greater source of dissatisfaction and concern. However- several projects announced in 2007 to be developed this year promise a brighter future for the rapidly growing business aircraft fleet operated in Russia.

AvBuyer   |   1st January 2008
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If At First You Don’t Succeed... Jet Aviation demonstrates the rewards of persistence in Russia. Until last year- business jet operators flying to and from Russian cities regularly complained they were being treated as an afterthought by Russia’s major airports. Maintenance had been an even greater source of dissatisfaction and concern. However- several projects announced in 2007 to be developed this year promise a brighter future for the rapidly growing business aircraft fleet operated in Russia. The thriving demand for business aviation services in Russia is finally being matched by an expansion of the supporting infrastructure. Vnukovo In December 2007- Jet Aviation sealed an agreement with Vnukovo Invest- under which the Swiss company will establish a maintenance station on the 3-000 square meter hangar space it is renting at Vnukovo International Airport. According to Peter Edwards- CEO- Jet Aviation Group- the company is still in negotiations with major business jet manufacturers and OEMs regarding the range of services which will be provided to the growing fleet- whether based in Moscow or transit- but Jet Aviation’s support from the OEMs in terms of spare parts- tooling and maintenance personnel has been substantial. AOG and line maintenance will be provided as early as this month. Jet Aviation’s path into the Russian market has not proven to be an easy one; it has taken over two years to find a partner prepared to offer sensible conditions in terms of return on investment. The initial plan had been to establish an FBO at one of Moscow’s airports- and although the company officials are being discreet about the reasons this plan was not realized- it could have been that the lobby of local businesses were not willing to share this potentially lucrative marketplace. Next- Jet Aviation evaluated the possibility of establishing a maintenance base at Domodedovo but now- finally- its patience has been rewarded with the Vnukovo agreement. “Given the extraordinary growth of business aviation in Russia- we felt the need to enter the region as soon as possible-” Edwards said. “Our clients and the OEMs have communicated clearly that they expect us to be here.” Jet Aviation also operates flights to and from Russia- with Germany being the most popular destination. The MRO station will be a representation of Jet Aviation Dusseldorf. As far as the FBO side of business is concerned- Edwards does not exclude the possibility of expanding the range of services offered at Vnukovo. There have also been negotiations between Jet Aviation and Gazpromavia- the owner of Ostafyevo airport in Moscow (see below) however no final agreement had been announced as of this writing. Meantime- Vnukovo is clearly striving to keep apace with the growing market. Currently handling almost 70% of all business aviation traffic in Russia- the airport is expanding its facilities to accommodate even more. According to Vitaly Vantsev- Chairman of the Board- Vnukovo International Airport- infrastructure investments have reached nearly Euros 60m. Business Aviation flights now comprise 30% of all operations from the airport- but that share is expected to grow. Ten months of 2007 (over 18-000 flights) showed a 50% increase in Business Aviation compared with the same period last year. To cater for the demand Vnukovo is restructuring the airfield. The ongoing reconstruction project- including runway extension- two-fold increase of apron space and an additional terminal is to be completed by 2009. Nonetheless- there are still development reserves as Vassily Alexandrov- Vnukovo’s General Director explains. “We have not even reached the operational level of the times of the USSR”. However- the main limitation to airport capacity is the outdated- inefficient ATM system and ‘clogged’ Moscow airspace. Another global maintenance provider working its way on to the Russian Business Aviation scene is Lufthansa Technik. Already the leading provider of MRO services to Russian airlines- the company is looking for ways to extend its local services to the burgeoning business aviation community. Lufthansa Technik’s senior vice president- marketing and sales- Walter Heerdt says the company is eager to build new domestic capabilities. “We know that Russian customers do not want to have to send their aircraft abroad all the time and want to be able to do some of that work themselves. We are in discussion with potential partners to achieve just that- on new services including base maintenance and component overhaul.” One of the projects currently discussed is a Lufthansa–Bombardier service station at Vnukovo. Sheremetyevo Unfortunately- Sheremetyevo- home-base of the Russian flag-carrier Aeroflot- has been lagging in terms of business aviation. However the local boom did penetrate the state-owned fore-post and in 2008 a business aviation terminal will open at Sheremetyevo airport- according to Mikhail Semenov- general director of Avia Group — the initiator and executor of the project. Avia Group- whose founders include Sheremetyevo International Airport itself- is now building parking spaces and handling infrastructure for the Business Aviation expansion. A hangar for 12 Falcon-sized aircraft or four BBJ- or ACJ-class jets is already operational- and early in 2008- a Dassault maintenance station will begin operations- servicing Falcon 900 and Falcon 2000 aircraft. According to Semenov- Avia Group intends to receive its own Dassault maintenance licenses - but as the authorization process for this may take up to two years- during that time work will be performed in partnership with Finland’s Air Fix company- an operator of Falcon aircraft and a Dassault-certified MRO center. Andrey Lebedinsky- Head of Dassault Avation’s representative office in Moscow expects that the Falcon service station in Sheremetyevo will make life easier not only for Russian Falcon owners- but for transit operators too. “Operators flying to Russia will feel much more confident”- he predicted. According to Lebedinsky- the station will begin offering line maintenance- trouble shooting and AOG services. “Heavy maintenance forms require considerable investments in tooling and training. I do not believe these investments would be justified just now.” Ostafyevo and Levashevo In September 2007 Gazpromavia (an aviation division of Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom)- announced that its intention to convert its base airport Ostafyevo into a business aviation center was close to realization- as the airport finally received international status (See World Aircraft Sales Magazine- November Issue). Ostafyevo is a rare example of an airport created for its operator. Gazprom is well known for its thorough approach to its aviation division. Besides the aprons- hangars- an aircraft maintenance base and passenger terminal- the airport boasts dedicated support facilities for Dassault Falcon aircraft- Eurocopter helicopters and Turbomeca engines - as well as a helicopter training center. Two hangars for Falcon or Gulfstream-sized aircraft are in place and three more are planned. Gazpromavia has operated Falcon 900 aircraft for over 12 years. During that time it conducted a lot of personnel training and accumulated wide experience in servicing these jets. Currently the airport is able to receive and service about 10 aircraft per day. In the future this will increase to 20 and even 50 aircraft per day. All handling services are provided by Gazpromavia. Passenger services will be provided by a third party operator. One limitation on Ostafyevo is its lack of easy access- but a new 5km road is to be built from the Kaluzhskoye highway. Under current plans this should be open by the end of 2008. In co-operation with the administration of St. Petersburg- Gazprom also intends to re-develop Levashevo airport. The scale of the investment involved and the project’s timescale have not yet been disclosed. A proposed initial construction phase (planned for 2009)- would see Airport Levashevo renovate the runway- meteorological equipment and control tower. The radio navigational and airfield lighting equipment would also be refurbished. Andrey Ovcharenko- General Director of Gazpromavia- when asked whether his company would plan on establishing the first FBO network in Russia- denied that this was his intention. “FBOs are a highly profitable business in large commercial centers- where business aviation and regular carriers have to share slots in large airports-” he observed. “However as an operator we have not so far encountered such problems outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. Besides the airport is an expensive venture to construct and maintain- regardless of the number of flights operated to and from it- so our investments elsewhere would not be secured.” Outside Moscow Encouragingly- the FBO-building trend is not limited to Moscow’s airports. Last year Austria’s Bannert Air Business Aviation Services announced its plans to build business aviation terminals in Krasnodar- Adler and Gelenjik airports. Bannert intends to invest up to Euros 6m in this program. Foreign companies are also participating in the development of the first specialized business- regional and general aviation airport near Kazan. The key investor is Commerzbank AG- while the building work is being handled by German-based TUL International. Vladimir Lebedev- president of Russia’s National Association of Business Aviation- says this construction project is worth Euros 125 million. Lebedev also notes that a plan to establish a network of 10 business aviation airports has been submitted to the Investment Fund of the Russian Federation. But the Fund’s recommendation was to consider each airport as an individual business project for separate construction. One of the airports on this list- St Petersburg Rzhevka- is already non-operational. Another project for an MRO station outside Moscow is being considered by Air Alpha- which represents Piper- Piaggio and Pilatus in Russia. In September Air Alpha Maintenance received Russian certification. The company was considering Samara as a possible location for a maintenance base- the reason behind this choice being that the city is an aircraft industry center on a national scale- and home to one of the aviation-related universities- so finding trained personnel would be easy. In essence- then- there is plenty of promise moving into 2008 and beyond for development of Russia’s business aviation infrastructure in support of a growing industry within the region. So here’s to a Happy New Year for all involved in Russia’s bizav scene! Elizaveta works with Russia-based aviation publication AirTransport Observer- having previously edited GA magazine Polet. Ms. Kazachkova is also a student pilot. She can be contacted at kazachkova@ato.ru

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