Russian corporations and charter operators are queuing up to acquire western short haul aircraft as the private sector battles to revive business aviation. VLJs and turboprops are being targeted at a hungry corporate and charter market.
Aero Management Group (Dexter) based in Moscow plans a wide range of air taxi flights to southern Russian cities after placing an order for ten PC-12s.
Bjarne Jorsal, md of Air Alpha Aircraft Sales, which is building sales after gaining certification in Russia for the PC-12, says: "We expect to deliver five PC-12s to Dexter this year and five in 2008. The aircraft will be supported from a new service centre in Russia."
Dexter has identified a need for services including flights from Rostov to Sochi, Maikop, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Donetsk, Voronezh, Anapa, and also from Sochi to Krasnodar. Dexter md Evgeny Andrachnikov says the PC-12 was chosen after a wide-ranging study of what was available.
The cost of charter flights to the south of Russia is said to work out approximately to between 100 and 120 roubles a kilometre per passenger (e3.4E) is fairly standard. Experts predict that the capital of Olympics-2014 Sochi may form the highest demand on air taxi services in the region.
Jorsal says: "Dexter is a young company striving to bring aviation back into Russia. Up until 1989 the former Soviet Union had about 3,000 active airfields and 10,000 aircraft for passengers and transportation which spanned a size ranging from an Antonov AN2 to large airlines."
He adds: "Today there are only approximately 200 active airfields in Russia. Of these only 50 are used for scheduled traffic."
That leaves plenty of scope for the development of charter routes. Moscow city is receiving most of the state money for improving infrastructure. "Outside of Moscow, in the regions, railways and the road system are in a very poor condition and land transport is often very slow, perhaps 50 km/h on average," says Jorsal. "An obvious result of this is that distances of 200 to 300 kilometres are best covered by aircraft and there's a ready market of middle class Russians, foreigners and officials from authorities."
Dexter began to address this market utilising an M101T single-engine turboprop.
Jorsal reports: "This aircraft has not met the expectations, mainly due to technical problems. However the M101T established that customers feel safe and are, indeed, happy to be travelling in relatively small aircraft - the M101T is a bit smaller than the PC-12. Thus, at Dexter, they are happy and feel confident that the PC-12 is the right aircraft for their market."
Jorsal says that the Piper Jet has great potential in Scandinavia, the Baltics and Russia. "Being a single engine jet, it represents a newcomer in the VLJ market that so far only Diamond with their D-Jet has looked deeper into. We believe the Piper Jet has great potential as it is going to be relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate since it has a high cruising speed and range and is going to be a lot simpler for an owner pilot to learn to fly than a twin jet.
He adds: "Many options have been sold - we, for a start, sold one ourselves, at that time the first one in Europe."