Russia ponders easing fleet-size rules for Q400 operators

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Russian regulators intend to facilitate entry of locally assembled Bombardier Q400 turboprops to the domestic market.

The country’s transport ministry has proposed to loosen fleet-size requirements for carriers operating on mainline routes.

Current legislation stipulates that scheduled airlines must have at least eight aircraft of a single type with more than 55 seats to qualify for such route designations.

An amendment, aimed at exempting future recipients of locally built Q400s from this regulation, has been submitted for government approval, says the ministry.

“Obviously, their scope of activities is smaller compared with top-tier carriers,” says industry and trade deputy minister Yuri Slyusar. “For instance, regional operators RusLine and Aeroflot subsidiary Aurora are interested in the Q400. But acquiring eight aircraft in one batch will not be financially feasible for them.”

A tentative deal between Bombardier and Rostec envisages assembly of the 70-seat Q400 at a designated facility in Ulyanovsk. The break-even for the project is estimated at 100 turboprops, but Slyusar does not expect local customers to acquire more than few aircraft each.

He says Rostec in-house lessor Aviakapital-Servis is negotiating with several regional carriers with a view to securing a sufficient order backlog for the joint venture.

“On the other hand, we've left import taxes on Western turboprops with over 70 seats intact,” adds Slyusar. “This project will not be economically viable if we annul them.”