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27 Apr, 2010 05:05

Business aviation takes small step towards less regulation

Small business aircraft can now fly freely in Russia without waiting days for flight clearance in a long awaited boost to the sector. But Russia’s business aviation still faces numerous obstacles.

Free access to airspace has been a dream of the Russian business aviation industry for years. Now the sky is open, to a ceiling of 500 meters, for small jets and helicopters to fly without traffic controlers. Leonid Koshelev from the Russian United Business Aviation Association says it is a new beginning.

“And the new rules signify actually the result of two or three years work by all the community. And this is what we feel will be a start of new development in Russia. “

However, most business jets fly at higher altitudes – and they are still regulated as tightly as civil aviation. It's not only the law of the sky that holds back the sector. Import duties make aircraft expensive, with Dan Firer, CEO of Lloyd’s Aviation Group saying they register their aircraft outside of Russia.

“The tax here is higher than what would you find in west Europe. And this is probably one of the main reasons a lot of owners prefer to register their aircraft outside the country. The question is if you want to have the people register in Russia it is better, because if brings jobs – maintenance, service and everything. It brings more business and more profit to the economy. Countries in Europe are fighting for owners of business jets register aircraft in their country.”

Duties in Russia amount to 40% – compared with zero in many western countries. It's Russia's Soviet legacy – business aviation did not exist under communism. But aviators say, the government has finally heard their voice and is starting to harmonize Russian and international flight rules.

Moscow skies are always empty. Flights above the Russian capital are prohibited. Business aviation hopes – one day – planes will be allowed through the city – at least above the Moscow river.