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Investments, ban lifting to support light aviation — experts

May 12, 2017, 19:04 UTC+3

The reconstruction and technical renovation of small airports in the north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory is envisaged in the strategy of regional socio-economic development until 2030

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MOSCOW, May 12. /TASS/. The reconstruction and technical renovation of small airports in the north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory is envisaged in the strategy of regional socio-economic development until 2030.

The territory used to be a center of light aviation development and its problems, which are typical of all Russian regions, cannot be resolved without federal funding, experts told TASS.

According to local transport officials, the Krasnoyarsk-based Krasavia airline annually launches new routes to Siberian destinations.

The Krasnoyarsk Territory’s strategy envisages the reconstruction of northern airports in the towns of Baikit, Vanavar, Dikson, Podkamennaya Tunguska, Svetlogorsk, Tura, Turukhansk and Khatanga, renovation of regional aircraft fleet and restoration of landings sites in remote settlements. However, the existing aviation network and infrastructure is just a shadow of former glory, experts said.

"Our (Russian) light aviation cannot be now compared with that of the US or Europe. We have rolled back to pre-revolutionary condition," said Grigory Speshilov, former head of the Krasnoyarsk civil aircraft factory.

As compared to 1985, the peak of the country’s aviation development, the number of landings strips saw a 20-fold decrease, he said.

"Even small villages used to have landings sites," the experts said. "Transport development is very important for this country. Aviation is playing a major role in the Arctic territories, which are almost unreachable without aircraft."

Stage-by-stage development

Speshilov said the revival of Russia’s light aviation is impossible without federal funding. This task will require major investments, therefore, the problem will be resolved stage-by-stage with the help of regional programs, experts said.

The Republic of Yakutia may adopt such a program as 90% of its territory have no annual transport accessibility.

"The region’s air mobility is currently three times lower than in the country as a whole. Therefore, we should develop private light aviation. The republic has 37 private aircrafts and their number should be increased with the state support," said Yakutia lawmaker Viktor Fedorov.

The Yamal peninsula will get seven new helipads by 2020. The existing helipads, as well as three airports will be reconstructed.

The Krasnoyarsk authorities are also looking for investors in the airports in Khatanga and Dikson, one of Russia’s northernmost settlements. The investments in these airports are estimated at 1.5 bln rubles ($26 mln) and 300 mln rubles ($5,2 mln) respectively.

Big companies operating industrial projects in remote areas have joined the solution of transportation problems in these parts of the country.

In 2012 Gazprom opened an airport for planes and helicopters at Bovanenkovo gas field. In 2014 Novatek opened an international airport in Sabetta.

Nordstar airline, Norilsk Nickel’s subsidiary, is the largest air carrier in the Norilsk industrial area. Last year the airline’s helicopter department has become an independent company, Norilsk-avia. It owns 12 Mi-8T and four Mi-8MTV helicopters to connect Norilsk and Dudinka with the continent, all settlements of the Taimyr peninsula and all gas fields of Norilskgazprom and Taimyrgaz.

According to experts, administrative barriers contribute to the problems of light aviation. Owners of small private aircrafts are forced to collect dozens of flight permissions and are  now allowed to perform commercial flights.

A law allowing the use of light aircrafts as air taxi is currently being developed at the federal level and may be adopted in the future.

An-2 heritage

The Antonov An-2 (nicknamed ‘kukuruznik’ or ‘corn crop duster’) capable of landing at fields and track roads was a light aviation workhorse in the Soviet Union. Some 18,000 An-2 planes were produced in the country since the end of the 1940s. Its clone is still being manufactured in China.

However, in the past decades An-2s have been replaced by foreign-made aircrafts, L-410s, DHC-6s and Cessnas. Russia currently has some 1,500 An-2 planes but only one-third of them can be used for flights.

According to experts, Russia needs a new An-2 type aircraft designed on the basis of modern technologies.

According to the Russian federal aviation agency, the country will need up to 350 aircrafts with capacity of 7-19 seats by 2020. The Russian aircraft industry is planning the creation of a new family of light multipurpose aircrafts (JIMC) with nine and 19 seats.

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