By Tom Zeitsev in Moscow

Russian start-up air taxi company Dexter is in talks with Swiss manufacturer Pilatus to acquire PC-12 single-engine turboprops to complement its fleet of Myasischev M101Ts.

Yevgeny Andachnikov, chairman of the management group that handles the project, says operating Russian-built M101Ts is most efficient on routes of up to 500km (270nm), while PC-12s could be used for point-to-point services within a 1,200km range.

"The size of a batch, to be supplied by Pilatus largely depends on the availability of technical support for these aircraft," Andachnikov adds. "We're discussing possibilities of setting up a maintenance centre in one of the cities that we serve."

Last month Dexter launched services along the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod-Kazan-Samara corridor using eight M101Ts. Overall, 45 of the types have been ordered from the Sokol aviation plant, owned by one of the two investors in Dexter's project. The company hopes to eventually operate more than 200 aircraft. By the end of 2006, Dexter plans to serve 18 cities on both a regular and ad hoc basis.

Andrachnikov envisages a network of around 300 destinations throughout Russia with a potential to carry 1 million passengers a year. While Dexter's plan is ambitious, it is confident that there is a market for air taxi services. "Although we're targeting five percent of the population, we're not offering a luxury product," Andachnikov says. "It is rather an individualised and comfortable travel at prices comparable to business-class fares on regular airlines."

Source: Flight International