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Import Substitution and Fleet Renewal Among Key Issues at Roundtable on Air Transport Accessibility in the Far East

26 July 2022
Вопросы импортозамещения и обновления парка авиатехники стали ключевыми на круглом столе «Авиатранспортная доступность Дальнего Востока»

As part of preparations for the Eastern Economic Forum 2022, a roundtable entitled Air Transport Accessibility of the Far East: Status and Development Prospects was held in Vladivostok. Representatives of airlines, aircraft manufacturers, federal and regional authorities, and aviation experts discussed a wide range of issues: state support measures aimed at producing new domestic aircraft to replenish the fleet of airlines in the Far East; developing a unified Far Eastern airline; and improving the air transport accessibility of the Far Eastern Federal District.

The event was chaired by Anatoly Bobrakov, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic. The roundtable was organized by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Economic Development together with the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation (FEDC). As a reminder, the EEF 2022 will take place in Vladivostok from 5 to 8 September. The Forum's operator is the Roscongress Foundation.

Anatoly Bobrakov, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic, noted in his welcoming address that the Government of the Russian Federation and President Vladimir Putin personally pay great attention to the development of transport accessibility in the Russian Far East and Arctic zone. The state is subsidizing air travel to the Far East, new routes are being opened, and airport infrastructure is being built in the Far Eastern regions.

“In 2022, we achieved record levels of air accessibility subsidies for residents of the Far East. A total of RUB 6.5 billion was allocated to subsidize flights between the central regions and the Far East, exceeding last year's figure by RUB 1.5 billion. A decision has been made to automatically subsidize the transportation for those who qualify for reimbursed travelling. RUB 5.9 billion have been allocated to inter-regional socially significant flights operated by a single airline from the Far East. I am sure that today during the roundtable representatives of air carriers, regional and federal authorities, as well as aircraft manufacturers will share their vision of what we need to do both in the short and long terms to ensure good air accessibility for the residents of the Far Eastern Federal District. We will use the ideas and suggestions received as targets for further joint work. The Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation is confident that the results of the roundtable will form the basis for discussions and decision-making at the aviation sessions of the EEF to develop the aviation accessibility of the Far Eastern Federal District and stimulate the development of aircraft building in the region," said Anatoly Bobrakov.

Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, said in his welcoming remarks that the Ministry pays special attention to the development of air travel in the Far East by improving air transport subsidy programmes.

According to Ivan Pechorin, Managing Director of the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation, aviation plays a key role in the transport accessibility of the Far East and the Arctic. In most cases, aviation is the only way to get around the region due to the remoteness of many settlements from major transport routes, the long distances involved, and the low population density in the region.

“The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation, which is subordinate to it, are actively working to implement the state policy on civil aviation in the Far East. This is primarily to support civil passenger air travel, as well as to maintain the timely refurbishment and modernization of airport infrastructure including the construction of new take-off and landing sites. The FEDC provides comprehensive support for the integration processes among the airlines that make up Aurora, the unified Far Eastern airline,” said Ivan Pechorin.

Vladimir Poteshkin, Deputy Head of Rosaviatsia, spoke about the progress of state support programmes for air transport in the Far Eastern Federal District.

“The state supports affordability of air transportation from and to the Far East under three programmes: subsidizing regional flights (Resolution No. 1242 of the Russian Government); ensuring the availability of flights (Resolution No. 215 of the Russian Government); and subsidizing a single Far East airline (Resolution No. 1172 of the Russian Government). Under the programme for subsidizing regional flights (Resolution No.1242) 9 airlines are currently flying to 51 destinations. The work is progressing well. As of 1 July 2022, over 53,000 passengers have been carried and 1,194 flights have taken place. Under the programme to ensure the availability of transportation (Decree No. 215), 10 companies are operating flights on 92 routes in the Far Eastern Federal District. Under this programme, over 1 million passengers are expected to be carried in 2022, and as of 1 July, over 658,000 passengers had already been carried. Under the programme to subsidize a single Far East airline (Decree No. 1172), 36 socially significant routes have been approved for 2022, and at least 7,300 flights are scheduled. As of 1 July, 2,831 flights have already been operated. Air transport accessibility to the Far East is an important segment of Rosaviatsia's daily work. The decisions that will be taken today during the roundtable will add new goals and objectives to our work," said Vladimir Poteshkin.

The roundtable participants discussed the problems of accessibility of air travel to and within the Far East macro-region.

Konstantin Sukhorebrik, CEO of Aurora Airlines said: “The work of Aurora Airlines and other regional airlines takes place within the framework of the implementation of Russian Government Decree No. 1172 on subsidizing a single Far East airline. We have an ambitious goal to transport 250,000 people on 36 socially significant routes. Here are our intermediate results. During the first 6 months of 2022 we have already carried 147,000 people. In addition, 62,000 tickets were sold. Therefore, we are optimistic about the end of the year and we are sure that we will fulfil the task. But I would also like to mention some key problems. The first problem is the shortage of aircraft, particularly regional aircraft. The second problem is infrastructural constraints due to airport slots. And the third is the difference in standards between our airlines.”

The CEO of Aurora noted that the roundtable meeting is historic: in addition to air carriers, it is attended by representatives of all aircraft manufacturers in the Russian Federation. “This is the first time we are meeting in this format. Therefore, today's roundtable is extremely important for all parties. It is a good opportunity to discuss industry issues face-to-face, to make a step towards common operational standards, to reconcile working plans,” said the speaker.

Reports on import substitution in the aircraft industry, maintenance of airworthiness of the current fleet and its completion with new domestic aircraft were made at the event by representatives of major companies: Boris Fedorov, Chief Expert of the Institute of Economics of Transport and Transport Policy of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Zakhar Khudenko, Director General of Aviashelf, Mikhail Karpushkin, Deputy Managing Director for Marketing, Sales and After-Sales Service at U-UAZ (Russian Helicopters Corporation).

Mikhail Peresadin, Deputy Director of the Aviation Industry Department of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, noted that a large number of aviation industry enterprises are concentrated in the Far Eastern Federal District. Plants in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Arsenyev, and in Ulan-Ude are working to rapidly replace and renew the fleet of domestic airlines with Russian-made aircraft.

“In accordance with the order of the President of the Russian Federation, a unified Far Eastern airline has been formed and is successfully operating. Between now and 2026, it should receive 45 aircraft of various classes. These are IL-114, IL-410, light multipurpose aircraft LMS-901 Baikal, and a new Sukhoi Superjet with import substitution of all major units and systems. Then a new turboprop regional aircraft TVRS-44 Ladoga with 44 seats will be added to them. All the necessary orders have been received and the financing mechanism has been determined. The latest aircraft models are in development. They are the medium-range MS-21-310 aircraft powered by a Russian engine and the Sukhoi Superjet New, a short-haul passenger aircraft designed to carry from 87 to 108 passengers within a range of 4,600 kilometres. I would like to express confidence that we will not only meet the current aircraft delivery plan, but will also be ready to meet additional demand for aircraft, including helicopters, in order to provide all the segments of the route network with new domestically made machines,” Mikhail Peresadin emphasized.

Kirill Budaev, Director of Marketing and Sales at Irkut Corporation (produces MS-21, IL-114 and Sukhoi Superjet aircraft) said: “The task of Irkut Corporation is to provide Far East carriers with quality Sukhoi Superjet and IL-114 aircraft, the serial production of which will start next year, and to provide technical support for the aircraft to be operated by aviation enterprises at various airports as part of the import substitution programme. We will have to deal with the organization of storage facilities at the base airports, logistics, engineering support, supply of spare parts, and pilot training. We are preparing a plan to pilot the new aircraft types, which will ensure their soft commissioning and efficient roll-out”.

The final decisions of the Air Transport Accessibility of the Far East: Status and Prospects for Development roundtable will be discussed at the industry aviation session of the 7th Eastern Economic Forum, to be held in Vladivostok from 5 to 8 September 2022. The official website of the EEF: