Western OEMs eye Russian market at MAKS

 - October 18, 2006, 6:06 AM

The growing Russian market for business aircraft prompted western manufacturers to expand their presence at the MAKS airshow, held recently at Ramenskoye Aerodrome near Moscow. Among the aircraft on display were the Bombardier Challenger 604, Learjet 60 and Global 5000; Embraer Legacy Executive; Cessna Citation X, Grand Caravan and 182T; Raytheon Beech King Air B200, 1900D and Hawker; Dassault Falcon 900EX EASy and Falcon 2000EX EASy; Socata TBM 700; Pilatus PC-12; and the Diamond Star and TwinStar.

There were only two contract-signing ceremonies at the airshow because most business aircraft sales to Russian clients involve little or no publicity. Moscow-based Travers-Avia Service and Raytheon Aircraft signed a memorandum of understanding for five Hawkers–three 800XPis and two Horizons. The company is expected to place a firm order this month that will include training of Russian crews in the U.S.

The first Hawker 800XPi is scheduled for delivery in September next year, with the first Horizon delivery slated for February 2008. Travers-Avia has already won local approval for Hawker 800XP line maintenance and expects similar approval for the Horizon next year.

The other contract-signing ceremony marked an agreement between KrasAir and Antonov for a second An-148-100 “operable prototype.” This airframe had made barely 100 flights before being sold for about $20 million. After completion of the flight-test and certification program, due by May, this airplane will be converted to a corporate jet. The aircraft will serve Kras-Air’s corporate needs and, when required, provide transportation for the Krasnoyarsk governor (replacing an aging Tu-134VIP).

A week earlier Kazakhstan governmental airline Berkut signed a deal for two corporate An-148s. Construction of these aircraft has started at Kiev-based KiGAZ Aviant, with delivery scheduled for the middle of next year.

The appearance of OEM officials–such as Embraer president Mauricio Botelho–is testament to the growing importance of the Russian market. At the airshow Botelho inspected the An-148-100 parked close to the Legacy. Embraer has already delivered two Legacys to Russian customers, and a third aircraft is expected to arrive in Moscow by year-end.

During the show Botelho spoke with Boris Alyeshin, the head of Russia’s federal agency for industry. The two discussed the possibility of co-producing regional jets in the 50-seat category. The topic was addressed again at the October session of the Russo-Brazil intergovernmental commission for trade, economic and scientific cooperation.

Interest from the West

Although the “Su-35 for ERJ 145” exchange plan fell through when Brazil canceled the long-running F-X-BR fighter tender, both sides continue to search for mutually beneficial commercial ventures. These might involve trading Beriev Be-103 amphibians and Mil Mi-17 helicopters (both of which recently won Brazilian type certification) for ERJ 145s. Alyeshin said Russia is seeking ways to produce the ERJ 145 locally.

Bombardier has been in negotiations with Russian “Aluminum King” Oleg Deripaska. His company, Basic Element, controls the Samara-based Aviacor plant, which manufactures the Tupolev Tu-154M passenger trijet and Antonov An-140 regional turboprop. High-ranking Bombardier managers were Deripaska’s guests in Samara. In August they attended the maiden flight ceremony for the Aviacor-assembled An-140. Speaking to AIN on condition of anonymity, a Bombardier director said the Canadian manufacturer is interested in partnering with Basic Element for business and regional aircraft manufacturing, as well as sales and after-sales support.

In September Basic Element officials said they were discussing with Bombardier how to establish a service center and a repair station in Samara to work on Bombardier business jets. Another topic under discussion is parts manufacture and final assembly of Bombardier jets at Aviacor.

Sokol has signed the first customers for its M-101T turboprop single (recently renamed Expedition in place of the original Gzhel). The Sokol plant that produces this new Myasishchev design won a contract from the Russian government on two airplanes for the Civil Aviation Pilot School. Delivery is scheduled for this month. Sokol expects a follow-on state order for five more M-101Ts.

Sokol has also won a contract from Vozdushnoye Taksi, a start-up company that has ordered 15 M-101Ts for delivery in the middle of next year. The company also took an option on 30 more aircraft for delivery by 2008. These aircraft are destined for an on-demand air-taxi system that would link major Russian cities in the part of the country that borders Europe. International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank, had earlier expressed an intent to provide a $15 million loan to support this project.