vladimir karnozov/ moscow

Western operators are accused of increasingly breaching airspace without permission

Russian business aircraft operators are calling on the government to impose stringent controls on Western air taxi companies which, they fear, are increasingly operating charter flights within its national boundaries without permission. The government is also being urged by operators to withdraw the high import tax on Western-built aircraft.

According to the Moscow-based Association of Business Aviation (ADA), up to 80% of air taxi flights originating from Russian airports are undertaken by foreign companies, and this figure is rising. ADA says: "We are not against competition with foreign companies, provided they operate fairly in strict accordance with the regulations."

The ADA argues the frequency of flights made by Western operators to and within Russia has risen in the first six months of this year by around 45% compared with the same period last year.

In a further attempt to help local operators, the ADA is trying to persuade the Russian authorities to remove the high import duties levied on Western business jets - 30% of the aircraft residual value, plus 20% value added tax. ADA believes the taxes are limiting operators' ability to acquire large-cabin, new-generation aircraft.

Eugeny Bakhtin, director general of Russia's largest business aviation company, Avcom, supports this claim, saying: "It is an absurd situation placing heavy import taxes on foreign-made aircraft. [They are not adversely affecting] the local market as the indigenous manufacturers [such as Tupolev and Yakovlev] do not produce aircraft in that class." The Moscow-based company operates a fleet of Dassault Falcons, Raytheon Hawkers,Tu-134s and Yakovlev Yak-40s and owns business aviation terminals at Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airports. Bakhtin adds: "[Operators] are confined to relatively inexpensive Falcon 20s and Hawkers, making us uncompetitive as the upper sector of the market is dominated by foreign competitors."

ADA says due to its lack of intervention, government and local industry are facing a missed revenue opportunity.

Source: Flight International