Moscow Helicopter Ban Continues to Hold Back Market

 - September 4, 2014, 9:18 AM

If Russian authorities permit open access to the airspace above Moscow to private and corporate helicopter operations, rotorcraft sales into Russia would increase by between 15 and 20 aircraft from the 2013 total of 28 units. This was the prediction of Airbus Helicopters’s Russian commercial director Artyom Fetisov, speaking at the Business Aviation Forum held September 3 in Moscow on the eve of the JetExpo show. According to him, there are already around 150 Airbus Helicopters aircraft in the Russian fleet and most of these are owned by non-governmental operators. Meanwhile, a growing number of Russian companies have secured approval by both the local aviation authority and Airbus to provide technical support for the European rotorcraft.

Fetisov and other forum speakers refused to predict when or if the Russian government will ever relent over its continuing ban on private helicopter operations over Moscow. But they did point out that several other Russian cities have found a way to liberalize air traffic rules in this way. Kazan, for example, has been open to helicopters for over two years now, in part due to the personal intervention of the Republic of Tatarstan’s president. Authorities in St Petersburg also have liberalized access to local airspace.

But the forum contributors made it clear that Moscow, as the country’s main political and industrial center, will be a very different proposition. The necessary modernization of Moscow’s air traffic control infrastructure will require significant government investment and the consensus seemed to be that the Kremlin will not allow the business community to override its national security concerns.

In fact, Moscow does have several fairly new helipads but under current rules these cannot be used for private and chartered helicopter flights. However, the past two or three years have seen increased rotorcraft flying within Moscow’s ring road by government officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who frequently moves between the Kremlin and the city’s Vnukovo Airport. This trend leads civil operators to believe that there may yet be some opportunity to relax the rules.