Business fever

Russian bizav operators look for new airports in Moscow region

The forthcoming possible closure of Russia’s largest bizav airport Vnukovo due to runway repairs may change the balance on the business aviation market in the Moscow region. The existing airports are unable to pick up all bizav operators from Vnukovo as they face the growth of commercial traffic. This creates good opportunities for specialized facilities including newcomers like Kubinka military air base that is to be transformed into a new business aviation center.
Russian construction giant Nafta Moskva is planning to turn the Kubinka military air base, located 50 km to south-west from Moscow, into a dedicated airport for corporate aircraft. The company has set up a subsidiary called Kubinka Airport; in August, it bought from the Defense Ministry a lot of land adjacent to the airfield’s only runway. It could be used for building a business aviation servicing complex. As privatization of runways and airport facilities is prohibited in Russia, Kubinka’s existing ground infrastructure will remain in state ownership. Nafta Moskva is prepared to invest $35 million in the project. Apart from erecting a terminal, aircraft hangars, and purchasing associated equipment, the company will have to build a 2-km-long stretch of paved road to connect Kubinka to Moscow-Minsk highway. It is as yet unclear whether the base will be ready to accommodate corporate aircraft any time soon, but if Vnukovo is indeed to be temporarily closed down then business aviation operators are sure to be seeking an alternative base for their aircraft.
The possibility of Vnukovo closing down for scheduled runway repairs in 2011 first appeared in the Russian media in early September. The airport has two intersecting runways; for the duration of construction works at the intersection the airfield will be unable to handle most aircraft types. The Moscow city administration, which controls Vnukovo, and the airport management are not commenting on the runway work dates, nor on whether or not airport operations will actually be suspended. According to Vasily Kichedzhi, head of the Moscow department for transport and communications, a relevant decision is to be taken by the city authorities and then authorized by the Transport Ministry and the Rosaviatsia Federal Air Transport Agency. Unofficial sources maintain that operations at Vnukovo may be partially discontinued for up to two months.
Vnukovo is currently the most popular airport in Moscow region among corporate jet operators. This is due both to its proximity to the capital and to the comprehensive bizav infrastructure built there over the past several years. If the airport is to be closed, its corporate clientele will have to look for other places to base their aircraft. Two other Moscow airports, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo, may also get a chance to expand their own bizav customer base. On the other hand, further increasing the frequency of business aviation movements at these two airports could get in the way of commercial operations: on peak traffic days, business jets would compete for slots against scheduled and chartered flights. There are certain indications that this is exactly the situation Vnukovo has already found itself in. This year Kuban Airlines already complained to the aviation authorities that the airline’s flights were repeatedly delayed in late August through the fault of Vnukovo Airport. Kuban does not elaborate on the reasons for the delays, but the aviation community believes they may have resulted from considerable numbers of business jets handled at Vnukovo. If this is true, then even after the runway repairs is completed, Vnukovo will still have to choose between corporate and commercial clients. If it chooses the latter (the airport is currently building a new terminal, which will need additional passengers), then business aviation will hardly be able to develop successfully at Vnukovo.

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