The Russian business aviation market has not yet completely recovered from the downturn of 2008-09. Nevertheless, foreign manufacturers seem to believe in its large potential as they are trying to secure their positions here.
These expectations are backed by the TsAGI Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute, which forecasts that the Russian bizav fleet will have reached 550 to 590 aircraft by 2025. Of these, there will be around 245-260 light and very-light jets, 205-220 midsize jets, and 100 to 110 larger aircraft, including the business versions of passenger airliners (such as the corporate configurations for the Antonov An-148 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 that are currently under development).
Many of the leading fixed- and rotary-wing business aviation manufacturers are already present on the Russian market. Customers in this country traditionally prefer large-size jets, but some manufacturers are already commenting that, due to the challenging economic conditions since late 2008, both private and corporate customers are considering their options more carefully before making the decision to invest in an aircraft. This might prove an opportunity for the manufacturers of smaller aircraft to increase their sales on the local market.
At the JetExpo 2010 business aviation exhibition that took place in Moscow in September, Italian manufacturer Piaggio Aero appointed the Aviacharter company as its Russian dealer. Aviacharter also became the first Russian customer for the P180 Avanti II turboprop by signing an MoU for two aircraft. According to the company, the P180’s STOL performance comes in handy at many smaller Russian airports. The MoU will be firmed up as soon as the aircraft gets a Russian type certificate. Avanti’s international sales director Fabio Sciacca expects the Russian certification process to be completed by the end of this year, with deliveries starting in April-May 2011. Along with the Russian effort, Piaggio Aero is looking for local dealers in neighboring Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Another European manufacturer of business turboprops, Daher-Socata, has also launched certification of its TBM 850 aircraft in Russia. "In the current difficult economic situation, the TBM 850 is the very aircraft demanded by Russian business passengers," says Viktor Kuklyaev, head of Infinity Aviation which is Daher Socata’s authorized dealer in Russia.
The helicopter sector is believed to be less affected by the economic downturn due to the diversity of possible applications. The Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland continues to expand the range of its models certified in Russia. In July, the AW119Ke single-engine helicopter became the company’s third model — after the AW109 Power and Grand light twins — to attain type certification in Russia. The company’s fourth model to break into the Russian market is expected to be the AW139 medium twin, which has completed all necessary testing in September and is expected to receive a local type certificate soon. The manufacturer holds a special hope for AW139 sales in Russia: this is the model to be assembled locally at the HeliVert joint venture with Russian Helicopters. Work to build the facility began in the settlement of Tomilino outside Moscow in June 2010, with the first locally assembled helicopters expected next year.
Bell Helicopter is also in Russia, promoting its new twin model — the Bell 429. This helicopter is expected to get a Russian certificate in March 2011. "The first rotorcraft of this type will be delivered to our country immediately thereafter," promises Sergey Filatov, sales director of Bell’s official local representative Jet Transfer. According to Filatov, the most popular Bell model in this country, mainly among private customers, is the single-engine 407.