Half a million expected at MAKS 2007 over weekend

The MAKS 2007 air show is continuing just outside Moscow. Saturday is the second day open to the general public and the number of visitors has already reached 250,000. Roads and commuter trains to the town of Zhukovsky, where the aviation fair is being he

People come to see the various aircraft  lined up on the tarmac of the airfield.

MAKS also gives people of all ages the chance to learn more about the space and aviation industry as a whole. Inside its large exhibition halls, visitors can find out about what’s going to be the next big thing in aircraft design, see what’s planned for space exploration, and widen their knowledge of existing technology.

And, of course, people come to see the spectacular air displays which MAKS is known for. A World Grand Prix competition will also take place at the show where individual pilots will be showing off their flying skills.

Gravity defying displays dazzling the crowds are the highlights of the second public day of the MAKS air fair.

Saturday’s agenda includes demonstrations by Patrouille de France, the U.S. fighter jets, and the six Russian ‘Strizh’ planes (‘Swifts’) which will be flying in unison, doing a 360 degree turn. Parachute jumps from helicopters will also take place.

This year's MAKS 2007 is the biggest Russian air show ever. Maybe that is the reason for certain drawbacks in its organisation. Participants are complaining of the high prices for exhibit space, which is higher than in Le Bourget, for example.

The crowd at MAKS 2007 air show
The crowd at MAKS 2007 air show

Visitors tell of high prices for food and drinks, but what really makes everybody mad is the way of getting to MAKS which is 40 kilometres from Moscow. Highways are crowded to such an extent, that it takes from five to seven hours just to get there. But for many families this is really quite a big event and they won’t mind all those inconveniences.

The event takes place every two years and a lot of people circle it in their calendar, and many of those who have been waiting for the show for a long time are ready to wait in queues.

It’s a kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of the visitors. For children this is a special treat. Where else do they have the chance to sit inside the cockpit, handle remote control planes, and feel like a real pilot inside the simulators?

Father Pavel, an Orthodox priest, travelled 300 km to the show.

“Every boy is interested in planes. As a boy I dreamt of being a pilot,” Father Pavel confessed.

But while spectators enjoy the fun, the business community is looking at how to capitalise on the show's trade days. Russia, as the world's second largest combat aircraft exporter, hopes to use the show to help its aviation industry to develop further.

Rosoboronexport, The Russian state arms trader, has been adding a billion U.S. dollars to its portfolio every two years, and half of that comes from sales of combat aircraft. Over the past few years,  Malaysia, Venezuela, Mexico are among the countries to turn to Russia for their military procurements.

“The value of arms exports will total between $US 5.5 BLN and $US 6 BLN this year of which aircraft exports will total $US 3 BLN. There are no fears that we may fall behind the plan. We have already delivered some $US 3 BLN worth of arms to foreign countries,” Sergey Chemezov from the Federal Service for Military and Technical Co-operation said.

But at MAKS 2007 new orders were hard to come by. The only contract signed was with Indonesia to supply 6 SU fighter jets. The deal will cost Jakarta about $US 350 MLN, bringing its collection of Russian jets to ten. And while other countries also talked about their intentions to buy, firm orders failed to materialise.

“As far as the heavy aircraft are concerned, our major clients like Indi and China, are already full with them, including the license to assemble them. For other countries these aircraft are relatively expensive. Many countries like Vietnam or Indonesia would like to purchase them, but they buy in small amounts,” Ruslan Pukhov from the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies explains.

MAKS organisers make no secret that they see the air show as a measure of commercial potential of Russian combat aircraft. At MAKS 2007, many hope it won’t be long until the once ravaged industry will take to the skies.