Time to rise off the ground
Russian aviation export is mainly focused on the military sphere with only 17% of the total output being civil aircraft. The share of Russia in global production of civil airplanes and helicopters is below 1%. It means airplane manufacturers have room for growth. Russia is planning to increase export of passenger airplanes as much as ninefold, from USD 0.5 bln to USD 4.42 bln. These target figures are included in the guidelines for main activities of the Russian Government until 2024.
Great expectations are linked with the MS-21 project, which is currently implemented by Irkut Corporation. It is a medium-haul airplane designed to compete with Airbus and Boeing products in the segment of airliners for more than 100 passengers.
CR929, a long-haul wide-body airplane for 250−300 passengers, is another promising Russian-Chinese project. It is developed jointly by United Aircraft Corporation and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).
Export of civil helicopters is limited to the Mi-17 and Ka-32 heavy machines, and to the super heavy Mi-26. Export of the Ansat helicopters, as well as the Ka-226T, Ka-62, Mi-171А2 and Mi-38 models is also possible. "The helicopter segment has good export potential, while in case of airplanes it nears zero," says Andrey Kramarenko, the leading expert of the Center for Infrastructure Projects at the Higher School of Economics National Research University. "MS-21 is the most promising among airplanes. If Irkut puts out a reliable machine with an efficient operation economy, there will be a chance to fill some secondary niches."
In the expert's opinion, the market of narrow-body airplanes is divided between Airbus and Boeing, and, moreover, the plan has already been fixed for years to come, thus even a successful new airplane (made in Russia or in China) will have to struggle hard to find its customers. The two giants are currently processing orders for around 11,100 units in total, i.e. for about 8 years of continuous production.
Apart from objective constraints, the industry has internal issues that impede promotion of Russian products on international markets. Among them are lack of competence for export-targeted production, insufficient skills for operating global supply chains and setting up aftersales service, and low operational efficiency of manufacturers.
Foreign status of the Russian aircraft registrar is another problem. In 2015, the government transferred air equipment certification authority from the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) to the Federal Agency for Air Transport (Rosaviatsiya). Up to now, the latter has not entered in bilateral agreements on mutual recognition of airworthiness certificates with the leading air transportation agencies of the world such as ЕАSА, FAA (USA), ENAC (Italy), etc. These agencies do not accept export certificates issued by Rosaviatsiya.
As reported by Alexander Neradko, Head of the Federal Agency for Air Transport, in January 2018, the Russian agency and EASA signed a working agreement on airworthiness. This year, procedures for its performance are to be agreed on, and mutual evaluation of certification systems is in process. The European party has conducted a check of Russian evidentiary documents which revealed that, according to certification tests, assessments and calculations, materials fully conform to EASA's requirements.
And this is it for now. "Rosaviatsiya lacks resources, competence and international recognition," admits Andrey Kramarenko. "The situation is gradually, although, slowly, improving, especially concerning recognition of certificates issued by the Russian agency. Unfortunately, the Agency is not capable of a step change. In its case, like in the well-known joke, the whole system has to be replaced."