New Heliport Is Part of Sheremetievo’s Plan To Challenge Vnukovo for Bizav Crown

 - December 3, 2013, 2:31 AM

Moscow FBO Avia Group has opened a helipad at the Russian capital’s Sheremetievo International Airport as part of its plan to offer a more viable alternative business aviation gateway to Vnukovo Airport. The company, which operates Terminal A as a business aviation center, is responding to rising demand for helicopter transfers in and out of the airport, especially in view of the heavy road traffic in surrounding areas.

“With this and other steps we are increasing the spectrum of services available to our clients by giving them the possibility to combine various means of transportation so as to make more efficient use of their precious time and to increase their mobility,” commented Avia Group general director Mikhail Semenov. He predicted that the new helipad will see around 10 to 15 flights each day.

The helipad is located just 100 yards from Terminal A. Avia Group says it will work with an unspecified–yet limited–number of suitable rotorcraft operators with good safety records, qualified crew and experience to offer flights in and out of the airport. Clients are advised to use RussAir services or request charter bookings through Avia Group.

No slots are required for helicopter movements at Sheremetievo, and they can be made on demand provided the operator has a handling contract with Avia Group. This flexibility became possible with completion of a comprehensive study done at the request of Avia Group by Aeronavigatsiya, the state-run agency responsible for planning air traffic at Russian airports. The agency has developed typical flight plans and guidance documents for rotorcraft crews flying in the airport zone so as to ensure safety and no overlap with the takeoff and landing operations of airplanes operating out of the airport.

Sheremetievo normally receives about 25 to 30 business aircraft movements each day. This is about half the daily average at Vnukovo-3, which had 19,587 movements and served 137,784 business aircraft passengers last year, but general manager Mikhail Vasilenko believes Sheremetievo can attract more traffic by providing a higher standard of service.

Apart from the Avia Group FBO in Terminal A, operators can also use a special area in the airport’s main Terminal B, as well as the Premier Avia FBO and a facility operated by the flight department of Russian energy group LukOil. Vasilenko claimed that having four rival ground-support providers has boosted service standards at Sheremetievo. By contrast, VIP-Port operates the single FBO at Vnukovo-3.

Terminal A opened at Sheremetievo in December 2011 and Vasilenko described it as Russia’s “most technologically advanced FBO.” Recently, the facility has been further improved with new air conditioning and heating systems. For now, the building is used by approximately 100 passengers per day.

Sheremetievo and Vnukovo-3 have been competing in the business aviation market for the past 10 years. Vnukovo overtook its rival in 2004 and has since established itself as Russia’s leading business aviation gateway, and one of the busiest airports in Europe for this segment of traffic. Sheremetievo had an FBO in place before Vnukovo but lost its leadership position during a period of major reconstruction at the airport, which limited takeoff and landing capacity, forcing operators to use Vnukovo or Domodedovo Airport. According to data from the Russian United Business Aviation Association, Vnukovo-3 served around 70 percent of business aviation traffic in the Moscow area last year. Sheremetievo and Domodedovo collectively account for around 25 percent, with Ostafievo Airport taking the remaining 5 percent.

Business jet traffic at Vnukovo seems to have stabilized at some 20,000 flights (takeoff/landing pairs) annually, according to VIP Port, the single provider of business aviation services at the airport. VIP Port expects that over the next two or three years the number of helicopter flights to and from Vnukovo Airport will increase by 30 to 40 percent and to capture this growth the airport has plans to add its own helipad.

Vnukovo-3 has seen business jet traffic rise from 499 movements since its opening in 2000 to 19,491 in 2007 (statistics for takeoff/landing pairs). Although this number dropped to 16,146 in 2009, the traffic level was back again to some 19,000 to 20,000 annual movements in 2010 to 2012, attributable largely to small and medium airplanes.