Putin Gets Air Show Off the Ground

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IL Serge Pod #16.08.2001 20:55

Serge Pod


Putin Gets Air Show Off the Ground

President Vladimir Putin swooped down on Zhukovsky in a helicopter Tuesday to open the Moscow Air Show with a brief speech peppered with praise for the Russian aviation industry.

``The difficulties of the past years in the economy could not help but influence the aviation industry,`` Putin said. ``At the same time, aircraft manufacturing companies - and these are people we remain proud of - have found a niche of their own in the international market.``

Bodyguards then beat a path through the crowds for Putin to make a three-hour tour of the show, the largest ever in its 10-year history.

Russian aviation, which stagnated through much of the 1990s, got a shot in the arm this year with the signing of multibillion-dollar agreements with Boeing Co. of the United States and Airbus maker EADS of Europe. Military jet sales to other countries are also on the rise.

Putin expressed great interest in the exhibits put on by Boeing and EADS. He then examined the wares of Russian fighter jet makers MiG and Sukhoi, which are locked in a battle to win a $1.5 billion government contract to build a fifth-generation fighter. A model of an upgraded MiG-29 complete with German air force marks appeared to catch his fancy.

MiG expects to land a contract at the air show to upgrade Germany's MiG-29 fighters.

Out on the field, upgraded versions of MiG-29 and Su-27 jets were on display - samples of what the Russian air force plans to do with its own planes over the next decade since it doesn`t have money to buy new aircraft. Nearby, civil aircraft makers showed off new Il-96M and Tu-204-100 passenger jets, which they hope to sell at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, state-of-the-art jets, helicopters and civil aircraft zoomed overhead for the appreciative crowd of several thousand people. Organizers said half a million guests are expected to stop by before the end Sunday of the air show in Zhukovsky, 30 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

Organizers also said the show has almost doubled in size from 1999, with 512 companies from 34 countries attending.

Participants noted that there is more interest to the show - and a good reason for it. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters that the show marks the revival of the aviation industry, which hit lows last year when it managed to deliver only four planes to airlines and none to the air force.

``The industry has begun to breathe again - it has the money and things to show now,`` agreed Sukhoi spokesman Yury Chervakov.
Ivanov promised that the government would provide more support in the 2002 budget.

The government is also overhauling the defense and aviation industry. The country`s 316 aviation firms are to be brought under six holdings.
Russia`s economic growth is not only cheering Russian sellers. Embraer, Brazil`s producer of regional jets, set up a booth at the air show for the first time.

``We believe there is a market for regional jets in Russia and we are using this opportunity to acquaint the public with our product,`` said company representative Stephane Guilbaud. ``It`s important for us to be here.``
A partnership of Sukhoi, Ilyushin and Boeing to build a regional jet won a tentative agreement from Aeroflot on Monday to buy 30 of the small aircraft.

By Lyuba Pronina Moscow Times

AVIA.RU - Информационное агентство "Российская авиация и космонавтика"
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