Stabilization or Stagnation? Russian Aviation in 2001

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IL Serge Pod #25.01.2001 22:56

Serge Pod


Stabilization or Stagnation? Russian Aviation in 2001

The transport ministry of the Russian Federation released preliminary results of
Russian civil aviation activities in the past year, claiming 21.7 million
passengers carried, 1% more than in 1999. The traffic was 53.4 billion
km*passengers, the same as for the previous year, while there was a slight
increase in km*tones, by 3.3%. This increase largely came from cargo sector,
which saw a rise of 9.5% in 2000. Remarkably, cargo traffic rose both inside and
outside the country, by 18.5 and 4.2% respectively. Although the passenger
figures for 2000 and 1999 remained almost the same, there was an important
change in the structure of the passenger traffic, with the share of
international flights rising by 15%, up to 50%.

Financial results of the past year have not been estimated yet, but these are
expected to be slightly higher than a year ago due to a better use of the fleet,
marked by the increase in seat-loading factor from 62.4% to 64% and commercial
load factor from 55.9 to 57%.

The fleet and infrastructure of the Russian civil aviation saw no big changes in
2000. Only a handful of new runways for large aircraft were put in use,
including only three /in Chelyabinsk, Kazan and Kemerovo/ able to provide
operations of such large aircraft as the Tu-154 airliner and the Il-76
freighter. Three more runways were strengthened and extended, including one in
Ostafievo near Moscow, a former air force base converted to a corporate airport
for air arm of the RAO Gazprom natural gas corporation. The largest project
finalized last year was that on major reconstruction of the passenger terminal
in Moscow Domodedovo airport. Private-sector East Line group, which controls
this airport, has invested $290-300 million into improvement of Domodedovo
infrastructure in the past three years.

Because Russian airlines continue to feel a shortage of funds, their fleets
received very few new aircraft last year. This required special attention to air
worthiness of the existing fleet. In 2000 over 400 civil aircraft underwent
life-extension procedures. Due measures taken in this direction by the aviation
authorities, aircraft repair industry and airlines themselves allowed to keep
flight safety high: in 2000, like in the three previous years, there were no
crashes of airliners flying scheduled services. In general, flight safety in
Russia has remained higher than ICAO average. Preventive measures undertaken in
the airline industry helped to reduce the number of catastrophes on Russian
civil aircraft from 7 in 1999 /42 people died/ to 5 in 2000 /20 people/. As in
the previous years, most of the catastrophes occurred on helicopters and
relatively small airplanes.

A stricter system of issuing aircraft operator licenses imposed in 1999 and 2000
led to a reduction in the number of companies permitted to operate civil
aircraft from 320 to 284. Out of that total only one-third are airlines
maintaining regular services. It is stressed that 36 airlines do 94% of all
aerial work in the country. Most of those companies who recently lost their
licenses were small one-aircraft charter airlines flying irregularly. The new
rules demand applicant for the operator`s license to provide a business-plan
proving their ability to maintain aircraft flying for least two years and the
ability to operate for at least three months without income from aerial work.

In the near and middle term the main task for Russian airline industry will be
keeping aging fleet operational /70% of aircraft in the fleet have been operated
for over ten years/. Rough estimations show that the existing fleet /with
grounded, but repairable aircraft taken into account/ could provide sufficient
resources and capacities to meet the solvent demand on the market for about ten
years. During that period it is planned to establish a state-supported
aircraft-leasing system which would make newly-built indigenous airliners
available on financial and operational lease terms.

Leasing schemes have been compiled and agreed between the manufacturers, banks
and airlines for several deals on Il-96, Tu-204, Tu-214 and Yak-42 airliners.
Under such schemes Domodedovo Airlines already operates an Il-96-300, KMV a
couple of Tu-204s, KrasAir a Tu-204 /with one more due to deliver this month/
and Volga-Dnepr an An-124-100 Ruslan. Elbrus-Avia came to terms on delivery of
three Yak-42s new from the factory in Saratov. Dalavia is to receive a Tu-214 in
spring and Aeroflot an Il-96T in summer. At the end of this month the government
will again look at two major leasing projects, one on six Il-96-300s for
Aeroflot and the other on ten Tu-204s for Transaero.

Yet the airlines need many more new aircraft than that. In 2001 some 494 civil
aircraft are due to retire on the ground of expiring lifetimes. While 310 of
those are single-engine An-2 biplanes, there are also 145 airliners of the
Il-62, Tu-154, Tu-134, An-24 and Yak-40 types, plus 39 relatively large

By Vovick Karnozov /AeroWorldNet/
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