Regulations pose challenges for foreign operators in Russia

 - October 1, 2008, 9:31 AM

Because there are few business jets registered in Russia, almost all business jets flying into the nation are foreign-registered and therefore subject to the rules governing foreign aircraft.

The nation has longstanding rules limiting flights over specific areas. In fact, a 1921 decree of the Council of Public Commissaries says, “The Revolutionary War Council is being asked to forbid or to limit strongly flights over certain zones.” Two years ago, however, Russian airspace lost its military status and became flexible, meaning that although the airspace is now primarily civil, the military takes over during periods of training or war.

To protect domestic businesses, cabotage is strictly forbidden: it is illegal for a foreign aircraft to be chartered within the country. The penalty for such an infraction is a stiff fine. A foreign businessman can charter a flight from, say, London to Yekaterinburg with a stop in Moscow for Customs (Russian visas can be obtained upon arrival only in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg), but no one can climb on board in Moscow to fly further.

So what are the requirements for a foreign jet to fly into Russia? Moscow-based Streamline-Ops outlined the procedures for a theoretical international flight into Moscow. The first step is to seek permission to enter Russian airspace. The operator can either send a request to the Russian CAA or have an agent do it three days before the planned flight. (Before August 8, the request required five to 10 days for processing.) Local intermediaries or trip-planning services often prove more efficient. The type of aircraft does not complicate authorization, which will cost between $210 and $560 depending on the urgency of the clearance.

The request should include such information as aircraft type and weight (handling fees depend on weight) and country of registration, as well as the visa numbers of the pilots, crew and passengers. The local handler can also assist with the visa process.

Once the operator lands at Moscow Vnukovo 3, he is subject to myriad fees:

• handling fee: $300 and $750.

• landing fee: $10.50 per metric ton of maximum takeoff weight.

• parking: 1 to 1.5 percent of landing fee per hour or as shown in chart at left.

• traffic security charge: $4.90 per departing pax plus $0.11 per kg cargo.

• pax screening: $4.90 per pax

• handling charges for aircraft with an mtow up to four tons: $158.

• handling charges for aircraft with mtow of 36 to 55 tons: $1,289.

• handling charges for aircraft with mtow of 91 to 115 tons: $2,602.

The jury is still out on whether the climate for business aviation in Russia will change. On one hand, as the country reduces or eliminates import taxes and crafts real business aviation legislation, Russia could see an influx of cash. On the other hand, Russian jet owners now benefit from the experience of European management companies, which in some cases they own, so opening Russia to business aviation could create a competitive market.