What, No Russians?

 - May 6, 2008, 4:24 AM

As startling as the absence of current airliners from the Boeing stable was the gaping void created by the lack of any of Russia’s fearsome fighters in the flying display. Many observers felt that the show was the poorer for the lack of the thrust-vectoring wonders of Mikoyan and Sukhoi.

Russian state arms export agency Rosoboronexport had planned to display both the Su-30 and the latest version of the MiG-29 multi-role combat aircraft but was forced to keep them away for fear of the humiliation of having them repossessed at the show by a Swiss trading company called Noga. This was the latest installment in a long-running feud that has seen Noga try to extract its pound of flesh from the Russian government over claimed debts of $60 million for an oil-for-food deal that went sour more than a decade ago.

The company often resorts to seeking a local court repossession order whenever a movable Russian state asset appears outside the country. For instance, at the 2001 Paris Air Show, Noga tried to seize the Su-30MK fighter and MiG-AT jet trainer but was foiled when the Russian pilots were tipped off just in time to beat a hasty retreat from Le Bourget Airport as the bailiffs were pacing out across the ramp.

Rosoboronexport executives could not get a promise from British officials to block such a move during Farnborough. However, they have vowed to resolve the dispute shortly to avoid further embarrassments on the international airshow circuit.

Tragically, during Farnborough’s public weekend, a Sukhoi Su-27 jet crashed 1,200 mi away at a Ukrainian air force flying display at Lviv, killing 83 spectators and injuring another 138. Both pilots ejected and are now facing the prospect of manslaughter charges.