Staunton, Feb. 3 – Because Russia lacks roads and railways on much of its territory, the country since Soviet times has had to rely on regional air fleets of small planes to link many small and even mid-sized population points with each other to each other and to larger centers as well.
But what Russians call “small aviation” can’t exist in the absence of massive government subsidies. Moscow not only has cut those back but id insisting that cities and regions make up the difference, something they cannot afford to do, according to Profile journalist Vladislav Grinkevich (profile.ru/society/mozhet-li-malaya-aviaciya-pomoch-v-reshenii-transportnyh-problem-regionov-rossii-1446545/).
When subsidies were larger and more regular, small planes flew even when they were mostly empty; but that is so unprofitable that now they will fly only when there are enough passengers – and then simply be scrapped as hopeless black holes in which money is poured in without any hope of a profit.
As a result, the size of Russia’s small aviation is declining rapidly. Indeed, Russia today now has fewer that 7,000 such planes, far fewer than the 400,000 the much smaller Czech Republic does. And the actual number of Russian planes capable of flying is likely far less than the reported number of those registered.
Intriguingly, the situation is especially dire in European Russia outside of the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas where road and rail links are better. In Siberia and the Far East, the authorities have little choice but to try to keep the planes flying. If they stop, they will lose much of the ability to control the situation outside of oblast centers.