Moscow´s Sheremetyevo airport is close to completing a new hangar facility exclusively for business aviation. The new facility, owned by Avia Group, has the capacity for two Airbus A319s or Boeing BBJS or several smaller business jets. Avia is also in the final stage of developing a new airframe de-icing service using Vestergaard´s "Elephant" equipment at Sheremetyevo.
The imminent completion of the hangar will be a welcome addition in a country with a dire lack of business aviation infrastructure, but it comes at a grim time for the sector in what was until recently one of the world´s fastest-growing markets.
The business grew around 35% last year, making Russia and the CIS the world´s second-biggest market. That growth in the business has dipped sharply as Russia´s commodities-fuelled economy has been hit by the recession.
Leonid Koshelev, chairman of Moscow-based charter and management company Jet 2000, says: "There has definitely been an effect on the business here due to the economic situation. The most obvious thing is that the people who have been buying aircraft have stopped. Some of them are people who we have been talking to for a long time and discussing contracts, and now they are gone. Some people have even opted out of contracts to buy."
He says there has been a big decline in the charter demand particularly in the last six months. "It´s fallen by around 30-40%. This has been especially hard on the Russian-built aircraft - what we call the ´residual´ side of the business - like the Tupolev Tu-134 and Yakovlev Yak-40. A lot of these aircraft are now parked outside Moscow, in places where it is cheap to leave them. There is also a drop in flying activity, people are definitely flying less."
His comments are echoed by Maxim Fedosov, executive director of Russia´s United Business Aviation Association, based at Vnukovo-3, Moscow´s dedicated business aviation terminal.
"In September there were a lot of flights from Vnukovo, private and commercial. In October the crisis really started and we had a 10-15% drop in commercial flights. From November to January that´s gone down by 30%. Now, more owners with a commercial licence are selling flights to make some money from their aircraft, people who weren´t doing so before. But it hasn´t affected take-up of hangar space at Vnukovo, because that was leased on a long-term basis."
The situation in Russia is probably mildly better than the rest of the CIS, according to operators.
Yulia Bychkina, commercial director of charter company Clintondale Aviation says: "The situation has been very difficult in the last six months. Russia is probably holding up better than Belarus or Ukraine, but it´s still probably down by around 40%".