Russian Civil Aviation in 1999

?? Serge Pod #07.03.2000 20:07

Serge Pod


Russian Civil Aviation in 1999
By Vovick Karnozov
AWN Moscow-based columnist

On 29 February Russia's Federal Service of Air Transport (FSVT) held a briefing devoted to 1999 results and plans for the year 2000. In his keynote speech FSVT director Vladimir Andreyev said the past year was "another year of the battle for survival". Main traffic figures were 21.5 million passengers and 0.493 million tons of cargo carried. On international routes passenger traffic was down by 12.8%, while the inner lines showed a rise of 4.2%. Andreyev said the drop was caused by firther worsening of the overall economic situation in the country and, as a result, decreasing demand on the market.

It is interesting to note that earlier reports on a considerable drop in cargo traffic seems to have not been confirmed by FSVT. In fact, Andreyev reported a 14% rise in cargo traffic in 1999, including that of .2% on international routes, but this figures might take account of the work done by the Military Transport Aviation (VTA) on the civil market in accordance with the respective permission by the federal govenment. A serious improvement was registered on the average seat loading factor, which rose from 58 to 62% in 1999 (that on inner lines was from 58% to 65%).

The main difficulty was a sharp increase in fuel prices, leading to low profitability of flight operations. For a year after the dramatic fall of the Rouble-to-Dollar exchange rate in August 1998, fuel prices in the national currency remained more or less stable, but then, in summer 1999, they saw a sharp rise back to the equivalent of $200-$250 per ton in the top 50 airports. The average rise in prices for a ton of fuel was 3.3 times (in the national currency), but in some large airports prices rose by 3.8 times. At the same time, airfares rose by 50% on average (also in Roubles). A further increase in tariffs was prevented by FSVT with a set of administrative measures aimed at keeping airport and navigational charges unchanged (their share in ticket price is said to be 20%, while that of fuel is said to be as high as 50%).

In 1999 the whole of Russian civil aviation generated a profit of Rbs 3.3 billion ($132 million). Operational income in 1999 was Rbs 62.1 billion ($2.5 billion). At the same time, debts of MoD for conveyance of servicemen on civilian airplanes amounted to Rbs 708 million ($28.3 million), while these of all other state structures exceeded Rbs 500 million ($20 million).

The Russian system of civil aviation now has 722 various enterprises. Out of 323 airlines with valid operator's licences 96 maintain scheduled services. But the 50 largest airlines do 98% of all air transport work. On 1 January 2000 the number of people employed in civil aviation was 231.1 thousand people, in comparison with 245.6 a year ago. Russian civil fleets account for over 7,500 aircraft, including more than 2,000 large passenger and cargo airplanes with a payload capacity in excess of 2 tons.

The flight safety level improved over that observed in 1998, with the number of accidents dropping by 30%, down to 27. In all, there were 7 catastrophes (none on scheduled lines) in which 47 people were killed. All catastrophes were on helicopters. The majority of incidents on airplanes were rough landings, but none of these led to a loss of life. Out of 27 accidents over the past year 13 were caused by infractions of flight regulations and instructions, six by pilot errors, two by improper use of equipment and one by technical failure mid-air. Andreyev said that helicopters continue to cause the most flight safety problems. One of the common problems is bad preparation of landing stops in Siberia and other regions with massive snowfall. A week ago, for instance, an Mi-2 helicopter got into a snow vortex set by the snow blown from the landing spot by the helicopter's rotors.

The major FSVT tasks for the current year are to increase the commercial effectiveness of the existing fleet and facilities while creating better economic conditions in the industry. The second is to restructure and reform the civil aviation system in accordance with the general conception of the national economic development worked out by the federal government. According to Andreyev, he was asked by the government to prepare and fulfill a set of measures on increase of profit generated by the state property in civil aviation.

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