Monday, October 19, 2020

Local Aviation in Trouble in Russian Far East

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – In the Russian Far East, there are few roads connecting even relatively large settlements; and the only ways to move among them are by water where there are major interconnected rivers, ice roads during the winter months, and airplanes. The first and second of these are of limited use in the summer, and the third is in trouble.

            As a result, many places are effectively cut off from each other and the outside world, the result of rising prices for fuel, declining numbers of planes and even entire aviation companies, inadequate support for existing airports, and Moscow policies that compound things and make it hard for the branch to develop (

            Regional governments are seeking to overcome all these problems because for the foreseeable future, air travel is going to be the only way they can hope to tie their enormous territories together. If there isn’t reliable and affordable air service, many places in them will go their own way regardless of what regional or central authorities decree.   

            The regions want to reduce government regulation but increase government subsidies so that carriers can offer seats at more reasonable prices and service among the distant locations will be again more regular. Prices have risen beyond the capacity of most people to pay, and many routes are being dropped because demand is so low, officials say.

            To overcome this, the regions are calling for eliminating regulations that make it extremely difficult for small players to enter the market. At present, new entrants must have at least three planes, something beyond the ability of local firms to purchase or to lease, given that they must have them to get registered but can’t afford them until they are.

            Escaping from this “catch 22” situation is absolutely essential, officials in Sakha and other regions say. They are also calling for greater use of drones to monitor the situation in the North and the purchase of more hydroplanes which can land on water or snow and ice. Unfortunately, they say, Moscow has no plans to produce such planes in the next 15 years.

            The use of hydroplanes in Canada and the US show the difference these planes can make, but the amount of money Moscow is prepared to offer as subsidies and the high costs of foreign-made hydroplanes are limiting the ability of carriers in the Far East to operate and thus reducing still further the integration of these regions.

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