EBACE Convention News

Bizav stages a new Russian revolution

 - May 5, 2010, 7:22 AM

Over the 12 months since EBACE 2009 there has been a major improvement–you might almost say a revolution–in prospects for Russian business aviation. “Last year marked a turning point in the attitude of the Russian government and aviation authorities to our needs,” said Leonid Koshelev, chairman of the new Russian United Business Aviation Association (RUBAA).

Foremost among the positive changes has been the easing of aircraft ownership rules, with import tax abolished for models with fewer than 50 seats. In addition, some aircraft import rules and flight operations procedures have been simplified and streamlined, making it a far more attractive proposition to put a business jet on the Russian register. In fact, since the last EBACE show, 18 jets have come onto
the Russian register–six times the highest number added in any previous year.

“Rich Russians have long tended to keep their aircraft abroad and ferry them into Russia only when they needed them for a flight,” Koshelev told AIN. “Now more and more of them consider bringing their aircraft in.”

According to RUBAA, at least 400 business aircraft are owned by Russians, including dozens of large models such as the Boeing Business Jet, the Gulfstream 550 and members of Bombardier’s Global Express family. In fact, by some estimates, the combined value of these private jets actually exceeds that of the entire Russian commercial airliner fleet–since many of the latter are quite old.

Boosting Russia’s Registry
“We at RUBAA want a good number of the Russian-owned aircraft to emigrate into this country and operate here without trouble,” Koshelev said. Among the benefits from this trend, he claimed, would be to create thousands of new Russian jobs and also allow Russian owners to get the most out of their aircraft and be able to use them as more constructive business tools.

RUBAA and its supporters can claim a lot of the credit for these changes in policy by the Russian government. “Our association has a political program, one that aims at creating normal conditions in this country for operators of business jets and helicopters,” said Koshelev.

Quite simply, RUBAA wants Russia to become one of the most favorable countries in which to own and operate business aircraft. The country’s vast size means there are compelling reasons to develop business aviation, especially since scheduled airline services are far from convenient in many places.

Government Welcomes Bizav
“Perhaps our biggest recent achievement was the change in the authorities’ political attitude toward business aviation in the sense that these people share our view that the private, corporate and special-purpose [governmental] aviation can and will
be an essential addition to the commercial airlines in rendering transportation services to the inhabitants of this country,” Koshelev said.

However, while the changes achieved recently are more visible, Russia is still a long way from this ideal, and the country has yet to adopt many accepted international best practices for business aviation. Fixing this is RUBAA’s next main job.

The positive changes for business aviation in Russia appear to have increased interest in the country from prospective foreign partners and mainly from Russia’s European neighbors. “We feel, we sense and we enjoy that increase every day,” said Koshelev.

RUBAA was established after the 2009 EBACE show. It was formed from the merger of the National Association of Business Aviation (NADA, to use the Russian acronym) and the United Business Aviation Association (UBAA). “This fact in itself was a good sign, an indication to the outside world that the local business aviation community has reached maturity,” said Koshelev.

In the meantime, Russia’s business aviation sector appears to have recovered from the negative effects of the global economic crisis, thanks in part to rising oil prices, which have boosted income for Russia’s main export, restoring the value of the Russian currency and reviving business activity in Moscow and St. Petersburg to 2007 levels.

Pilots flying for Russian aircraft owners have returned from enforced, unpaid breaks from work. Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport is once again becoming one of the busiest business aviation gate-ways in Europe–mainly in terms of the average size of the aircraft arriving there, rather than in terms of total number of movements.

RUBAA is an affiliated member of the European Business Aviation Association and
its role here also is changing. EBAA has long had Russian members, but they have remained passive in discussions that have largely concerned the industry’s interaction with the European Union. Also, since Russian rules have until
lately been completely uniform between those applying to airlines and business aviation, there hasn’t been much to discuss at a European level for Russians in EBAA.

Although some of these divisions remain, Koshelev believes Russian EBAA members now have a lot more in common with their European colleagues and by extension more reason to engage with them. With the positive changes happening in Russia, local specialists have become more useful in practical EBAA issues, such as working out new standards and recommendations.

For instance, Koshelev has been invited to join EBAA’s committee on airports, FBOs and handling services. This makes sense since his own company, Streamline Ops (Booth No. 927), is a long-established specialist in flight planning and handling at Russian airports.

“It is about our vision for how airports should serve business aircraft in future,” he explained. The EBAA committee is preparing a document laying out business aviation’s detailed needs and expectations for airports and companies providing handling.

“Our airports are rather expensive and do not always [meet] client’s expectations, but some are very interested in improving quality of services,” added Koshelev, who maintained the new EBAA document may help to raise the service and value bars in Russia.

Most of Koshelev’s time here in Geneva this week is devoted to promoting Streamline Ops and his other venture, the executive charter operator Jet-2000. “EBACE is a very important event for managers of these companies, especially Streamline’s, where they can see and talk to the great many existing clients and meet new ones looking for a Russian connection,” he concluded.