Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union there was a small segment of aviation which could loosely be called "general aviation." This segment consisted of sport aviation, aerial photography, agriculture and some passenger travel; however, most of the aircraft used were retired military aircraft as there was no market for general aviation aircraft in the Soviet Union. All of these operations were conducted by the state-run airline Aeroflot.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union aircraft manufacturers in Western Europe and the United States have been eying Russia as another new major market like China. Barriers still exist to the use of private aircraft in Russia, but recent efforts to eliminate the 40% tariff on imported aircraft and an improving economy with rapidly growing companies has provided interest in business aviation amongst the new entrepreneurs in Russia.
For example, from July 31 to August 1st this year an International Air Show was held at the Domodedovo Airport business aviation center called Avkom-D. Here many Western built aircraft were on display from manufacturers such as Dassault Falcon, Beechcraft Hawker, Bombardier and Cessna. This event was sponsored by the Russian Business Aviation Association along with several state institutions like the Ministry of Transportation and the Federal Air Navigation Service.
One of the primary reason manufacturers look at Russia as a great potential market is the similarity to the United States in terms of the size of the country and the vast distances businessmen must travel to run their businesses. Today, most business aircraft are registered outside of Russia to avoid the taxes on purchase, but operate in and to Russia. When you consider that Western Europe has a little over 400 private business jets and then look at the size of Russia, it is not difficult to imagine the size of the potential market for the manufacturers of business jet aircraft.
But how does a Russian get a pilot's license other than through military training? Tomorrow I will look at how individuals use general aviation aircraft to acquire a pilot's license in Russia.
Until then keep your wings straight and level Hersch!