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The Foundation was established in 2007 with the aim of facilitating the development of Russia’s economic potential, promoting its national interests, and strengthening the country’s image. One of the roles of the Foundation is to comprehensively evaluate, analyse, and cover issues on the Russian and global economic agendas. It also offers administrative services, provides promotional support for business projects and attracting investment, helps foster social entrepreneurship and charitable initiatives.

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Aviation Accessibility of the Far East in Times of Global Turbulence
7 September 2022
12:30—14:00
KEY CONCLUSIONS
Air travel in the Far East needs to be developed in order to improve people’s mobility

We are still learning to fly between regions of the Far Eastern Federal District. And this has been a very successful endeavour. In terms of intraregional flights, <...> the Far East accounts for 40% of Russian territory and just 5% of the country’s population. But people in the regions also want to fly. They also want comfort, and service, and speed — Vyacheslav Loginov, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Of course, this kind of territory needs connectivity. The population needs a certain level of mobility, and in principle, everything that we are doing is aimed at making people feel comfortable. And it’s not only about local residents, but also visitors to this beautiful and vast region. There are three main government subsidy programmes covering air travel. These focus on improving the mobility of the population, a resolution on the development of regional flights, and developing Aurora Airlines. <...> [We – ed.] have increased subsidies for airlines quite substantially. “Whereas last year we had less than RUB 2 billion, this year the figure is 5.9. <...> What’s more, we plan to increase this to RUB 7.1 billion next year, and to almost RUB 7.9 billion in 2024. So, the figure is constantly growing — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

Innovative solutions are required to develop the regional aviation sector

Since 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has essentially implemented two strategies as requested by the regions and the Ministry of Transport. <...> For the first time, we are following Soviet-era standards, whereby R&D is assigned before any type of aviation equipment is built. This is broad-based research as well, and absolutely crucial. <...> As of this year, work is under way on implementing a directive to create an advanced after-sales service for the regional aviation sector. The regional aviation sector is exactly where there needs to be innovation. <...> When we develop airfields, we must simultaneously create a fundamentally new airworthiness maintenance system which is again built upon the very latest scientific accomplishments — Oleg Bocharov, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.

ISSUES
Airport infrastructure remains insufficiently developed, which is hindering the potential of airlines

Airport turnaround times and optimizing the route plan are absolutely crucial. We of course see that the potential offered by the airport infrastructure is not being fully exploited. <...> For us, it is absolutely crucial that alternate airports are available, and that they operate 24 hours a day. Otherwise, we are unable to fly according to schedule, as we use a non-optimal path. The fact that alternate airports do not operate 24 hours a day is a major impediment. <...> If airport categories are improved, particularly those like Yakutsk – where we experience difficulties in the winter – or Blagoveshchensk <...> then we will be able to fly more, and with more regularity. This will not only help improve S7’s presence, but the presence of other airlines too — Anton Eremin, Deputy General Director, Siberia Airlines (S7 Airlines).

The objective is to sort out the regional airfield network, because this is currently hindering efforts to increase flights in the Far East. The new Baikal aircraft is in the pipeline. But flight infrastructure needs to be modernized. We are well aware of this. <...> One segment remains which can in principle be immediately revitalized or structured correctly – helicopter transport. Helicopter transport accounts for almost half of our route network. That does not translate into particularly large passenger numbers, but in terms of our operations, it is a lot of work — Konstantin Sukhorebrik, General Director, Aurora Airlines.

We see two main stumbling blocks. The first one is of course the aircraft fleet. In this regard, we are waiting for the Baikal [aircraft – ed.] The second one has to do with the engineering infrastructure at our airports. Unfortunately, it is in need of modernization. In times gone by, we had a great many airports in Amur Region. However, they do not meet today’s standards, and modern technology is not used there. And unfortunately, a lot of money is needed to modernize this infrastructure – not all regions can manage it. Therefore, I think that moving forward, we need to work with the government and discuss ways of supporting regions which are endeavouring to develop their internal flight network — Vyacheslav Loginov, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

SOLUTIONS
Increasing subsidized air travel and implementing a uniform policy

Clearly, we will increase the number of subsidized routes, and with it, the number of passengers. The main thing here is ensuring that there is enough aircraft. <...> Since routes are very different in nature, and passenger numbers vary greatly, there needs to be a wide range of aircraft and helicopters offering different seating capacities. That way, we can make sure that a route is profitable. We need aircraft to be at least 80% full. And we realize that in any case, some routes need to be subsidized. As a rule, these are local routes which are unprofitable for airlines regardless. These are the ones which need to be subsidized by the government — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

Of course, the subsidies which have been allocated are enabling us to expand our presence in the Far East. We understand how important it is to maintain this accessibility. All these additional funds – all forms of subsidies which are offered today – of course [have an impact – ed.]. However, we would like even more — Andrey Chikhanchin, First Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Commerce and Finance, Aeroflot.

We are now completing the consolidation if all six airlines which currently operate in the Far East. They are being brought together under a single leadership body. That means one board of directors, one route network, and one policy. I am in no doubt that this will prove to be a successful endeavour — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

Providing new Russian-made aircraft for the Far East

We are implementing a project to set up production of Baikal aircraft in Komsomolsk‑on‑Amur. So, the aircraft which will fly in the Far East and support local aviation routes and local transportation will be manufactured in the Far East and maintained in the Far East. <...> At the behest of [Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury – ed.] Trutnev, we are drawing up a comprehensive regional aviation programme for the Far East. This will incorporate every stage and process related <...> to these aircraft [the Baikal – ed.] and operating them. That covers everything from training pilots and running training centres, to airfields. We understand that we need to modernize our Soviet-era airfields. We already envisage more than 105 aircraft operating along routes in the Far East. In order to achieve this, we will need to repair at least 280 airfields — Anatoliy Bobrakov, Deputy Minister of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic.

The main thing for the Baikal, which is set to be a world-leading aircraft, is that we make a complete rescue system. A passenger flying on a regional route – be they Russian citizens or visitors – must have the same access to safety as passengers on medium-haul flights — Oleg Bocharov, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.

The main thing is for there to be enough aircraft. Given that routes are different in nature, and passenger numbers vary, there needs to be a wide range of aircraft and helicopters offering different seating capacities — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

The material was prepared by the Russian news agency TASS