Flying to Moscow

Airports can be congested and expensive, but overall service quality is good.

Hawker Siddeley HS125-400/731 air ambulance taxis to position at DME (Domodedovo, Moscow). DME is a popular alternative to VKO for corporate ops. Support providers report handling service is excellent.

If a crewmember neglects to bring his/her passport this can result in detention at the airport adds Linebaugh.

"Forget to bring your passport and you'll be confined to the airport for the duration of your stay.

It's not a game over there and they won't just take your word for who you are." Operating permits to Moscow and Russia are often more flexible than in other international operating arenas but, here again, know the rules.

Departing later than your permit time-up to 24 hours after an originally scheduled flight-is generally not problematic but departing earlier may require arranging a new permit.

Moscow operating costs are high and not likely to come down any time soon due to continuing high demand for operations to the area. Parking can be difficult to confirm, particularly at VKO, and hangar space is virtually impossible to arrange at any of Moscow's 3 airports.

Expect high costs in Russia for nav and landing fees, handling and parking. Much of this is simply a supply and demand issue. Although hotels are good Moscow is such a popular place that ISPs suggest budgeting $400- 600 per crew room per night.

Operators report that the Russian mafia is alive and well and continues to exert control over pricing. In the old days a gift of a carton of cigarettes to a handler would get you just about anything you wanted in the world when landing at Moscow.

Later, a pair of jeans might have achieved the same results. Today you may be better off dispensing cash, gold coins or jewelry in order to bend the rules a little after landing!

Russian bizav

Rising demand for business aviation in Russia goes back to the mid-1990s during the country's transformation from a centrally planned economy to privatization of state-owned industries and the surge in a new private business sector.

Early locally-owned business jets in Russia and the CIS were operated by the energy industry and were mostly recycled YAK40s and TU134s. As these older Russian airplanes did not comply with strict European noise and emission standards requirements many Russians, primarily after 1998, began buying Western-built aircraft.

As of mid-2008 about 350 business jets are owned by Russian operators with an increase of more than 75 aircraft over the past year alone. Until a couple of years ago, due to strict local regs and tax laws, most Russian-owned aircraft were registered outside the country.

In order to purchase and register a business aircraft in Russia a user was expected to operate an airline company. Until last year import taxes amounted to 43% of the purchase price of an aircraft.

Last summer, however, a 10% reduction in import taxes was adopted and value added tax, while it remains at 20%, is now refundable during the year following registration. Dassault Falcon and (then BAe) Hawker business jets were the first Western business jets in the Russian market.

Today, Bombardier claims 40% market share in Russian-owned business jets and all OEMs are doing well in this market. RusJet, a Russian airline set up by VKO, Vipport and RusAero for business jet management, operates Airbus A319CJs, Boeing BBJs, Bombardier Global Express XRS, Gulfstream G500/550 and 4 Russian-built jets-a TU134, 2 YAK40s and a YAK 42.

Meanwhile, Jet 2000, based at VKO and DME, specializes in aircraft management with a fleet including G450s, Dassault Falcon 2000/ 2000EXs, Hawker 850XPs, Challenger 604s and YAK40s.

"The market for Gulfstream in Russia has seen strong performance over the last 2 years," says Gulfstream VP Intl Sales Europe, Middle East and Russia Tarek Ragheb.

"In terms of orders, the installed base has grown to equal that of the Middle East."Adds Hawker Beechcraft VP Intl Sales Sean McGeough, "The Russian market has become one of our top 3 outside the US. Hawker bizjets have been extremely successful but we're also selling Premier IAs to Russian operators."

Maintenance in Moscow

Support for Western-built corporate aircraft is much better than it was a few years ago and such capabilities remain on an upward trajectory. Jet Aviation, the first global aviation maintenance company to serve the growing bizav community in Russia, has opened a new maintenance facility at Vnukovo 3.

It is currently a Bombardier line maintenance facility for Challenger and Global series, as well as a Gulfstream authorized warranty line service facility.

Located next to the FBO area of Vnukovo 3, Jet Aviation's new facility provides over 17,000 sq ft of hangar space and will be expanded soon. Negotiations with other major OEMs, to obtain authorized line service center status, are under way.

Future directions

Looking to the future, operators and ISPs alike hope to see a 4th airport option in the Moscow area, greater availability of corporate aircraft parking and a more plentiful inventory of Western-style hotel rooms, since Moscow hotels fill up quickly.

An easier permit process-with less lead-time and better advance notification of slots-is something regular operators to Russia long for. While a further easing of the permit process to Moscow may be in the cards, don't expect costs to come down says Linebaugh.

"I believe costs will go higher and higher in Moscow. It's such a popular place and there are more locally-based private aircraft coming into the region." Still, despite high costs of operating corporate aircraft to Moscow and beyond, most business executives prefer to avoid Russian airline travel and business deals here are typically sufficiently lucrative to offset costs of corporate transport.

RBAA anticipates annual bizav fleet growth to continue to grow in excess of 30% for the foreseeable future with the majority of corporate transports based in Moscow. Since the collapse of the old Aeroflot monopoly, the Russian aircraft charter market has also been booming.

Demand is strongest for larger corporate jets, but smaller equipment, including Citation CJs and Premier IAs, is also selling well. European Technology and Investment Research Center (ETIRC), which will open the Eclipse 500 manufacturing facility at Ulyanovsk, envisions a potential Russian market for several hundred Eclipse 500s with most of this equipment slated for air taxi ops.

Corporate capacity at popular VKO will improve in 2010 when an additional runway goes into operation. Operating priority at VKO, say ISPs, goes first to airlines and government air service ops and the new runway will make an important contribution in easing future corporate operations.

Exciting and prosperous times lie ahead for business aviation to Moscow. Plan your trip early, double check your documentation and enjoy the pleasures of flying to Moscow aboard your company aircraft. You'll be competing for slots, handling, parking and services with a growing market of local Moscow-based operators but it will still be straightforward, manageable and rewarding.

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.


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