Pogosyan gets world’s worst aerospace exec job

MS-21.jpgNo doubt somebody will point out a worse one, but it will have to be pretty grim to challenge the new role that it seems long-standing Sukhoi chief Mikhail Pogosyan has finally got – head of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

Apparently the Putin regime has lost patience with current UAC head Alexei Fedorov who’s on his way out, possibly along with Irkut CEO Oleg Demchenko (although we’ll see).  Unfortunately Putin takes a keen interest in the aerospace industry, presumably because he sees it as one of Russia’s better prospects for earning hard currency, and also because it appears to his notion of what a 21st century Russia should be like.

I interviewed Fedorov in Moscow soon after UAC had been put together from most of the other household names of Russian aerospace. He was very likeable but faced a ghastly prospect. On the one hand he had Putin breathing down his neck demanding that Russia start building large civil platforms again, and on the other he was forced to go ahead with a bunch of programmes that were basically the favoured projects of the assorted players who’d been pushed into UAC – most notably Demchenko’s MS-21. Whether these were the right programmes, and more importantly whether UAC’s most promising future lay in building complete aircraft at all, was never properly examined.

Meanwhile Pogosyan’s Superjet was at least delivered as an actual aircraft, which got some attention in the West, and seemed to have prospects of selling. Now of course its future does not look very promising at all. But Pogosyan’s fighter empire is unquestionably successful, by Russian historical standards anyway. So he’s got the job, whether he likes it or not.

I guess he’s stuck with MS-21 now. Good luck with that – a largely undifferentiated medium-sized airliner competing with Boeing, Airbus and China. Imagine if instead Russia decided to focus on becoming a world-class tier-one supplier to the rest of the world – roughly on the Japanese model.

But it’s not too late to stop, and if Demchenko does go then that just might happen (though probably not.) Demchenko – a real bruiser, who I also interviewed – always favoured close links with EADS/Airbus. And EADS/Airbus has become a serious and sophisticated player in Russia. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pogosyan revisit that relationship, and/or to talk to Boeing a bit more. (I don’t think China sees much point in collaborating with Russia these days.)

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