Moscow's Vnukovo Airport still lays claim to being not only the busiest business aviation hub in Russia, but one of the busiest in Europe. According to the airport administration’s statistics made public as it was hosting the Jet Expo show, the airport’s Vnukovo-3 business aviation terminal served 19,437 business jet flights (with 133,000 travelers aboard them) last year. That is nearly the same figure as in the pre-crisis year of 2007 (19,491 flight pairs; 103,000 passengers), when the Russian economy and air travel flourished. The numbers amount to five times the traffic level 10 years ago, when Vnukovo-3 had just begun operations.
By comparison, all four other Moscow airports served about 9,000 business jet flights last year. Sheremetievo, Domodedovo, Ramenskoye and Ostafievo combined generate less than half the business jet traffic seen at Vnukovo.
Future growth will depend on how the national economy, relations with the West and the situation in Ukraine develop. “Unfortunately, we are not expecting a rise in our figures at the moment,” Georgy Sharov, general director of the Vnukovo-3, told the media on the eve of the show. “Yet we do everything we can to keep our leadership in the Russian market,” he added.
Expansion plans turn primarily in the direction of helicopter operations. Vnukovo officials predict within three years the number of rotorcraft flights to and from the airport is expected to rise by 30 to 40 percent. The increased demand results largely from the number of new helipads now available in Moscow and the Moscow Region area. To take advantage of the growth, Vnukovo officials are planning a comprehensive strategy, including building a free-standing helicopter terminal, hangars and a technical services center.
Speaking to AIN earlier, Vitaly Vantsev--effectively the owner of the airport--emphasized his efforts in the rotorcraft domain. “We have declared our intent to construct a heliport. It will be a logical continuation of our Vnukovo-3 business aviation project. Construction begins this year; and I am sure we can complete it within couple of years. With the heliport ready, we can offer our clients the opportunity to use helicopter transportation to its best effect.”
Vantsev does not think that every businessman with a personal or chartered jet at Vnukovo-3 will be jumping on the new rotorcraft opportunity. “Our passengers will have multiple choices of how to get to the airport. Today they can arrive by helicopter, by road, and by rail. Most prefer road, and there are three federal highways to Vnukovo. This is the only airport in the whole of Russia with that convenience.” With more bypass roads interlinking these motorways under construction, the accessibility of Vnukovo will further improve as drivers will be able to evade traffic jams, a major inconvenience for Moscovites.
“No doubt, the helicopter services we are planning are mostly for the benefit of business aviation travelers”, says Vantsev. But he did mention there is an idea to connect Vnukovo and Sheremetievo airports by a rotorcraft. “Today, I have some difficulty in imaging how we can justify a regular helicopter service between Moscow airports. We need to research the target audience: what frequencies would be and if there is a possibility for regularly scheduled flights. The information we currently have is not sufficient to make even a prognosis, let alone a decision.”