The Promising Yet Complicated Russian Market For Ground Support Equipment

As the country spends million to rejuvenate its aging aviation infrastructure, spending for modern ramp equipment is poised for a breakthrough.


Although there is clearly a market for imported GSE, as a rule, the majority of Russia’s regional airports do not have enough funds to purchase it, and are essentially forced to use the production of domestic GSE manufacturers as well as that of producers from the CIS region.

At the same time, however, some modern types of GSE are impossible to use at the majority of Russian airports due to poor quality runways, including some of the largest airports serving Moscow. More than 334 runways in the country do not meet international standards and are almost unsuitable for operation. The situation at regional airports remains even more complicated.

On the plus side, the general level of wear-and-tear of GSE at Russian airports with annual passenger traffic from 100,000 to 5 million people is estimated at more than 30-35 percent. A great deal of GSE wear-and-tear, however, is centered at small, regional airports, where the GSE’s level of wear may reach even 70 percent.

On the negative side, at least for the country’s own brands of GSE, imported GSE comprises up to 50 percent of the Russian GSE market, and that market share has significantly increased in recent years. There are also some market niches where the share of imports reaches 100 percent.

Alexander Khaletsky, CEO of Kominvest-AKMT, one of Russia’s leading producers and importers of GSE, says that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country lost most of its GSE-making expertise since many such businesses were located in what is now the Republic of Belarus.

Since then, the country’s GSE production has not truly developed. The majority of local producers still manufacture outdated equipment designed during the Soviet era or simply make small-scale copies of imported equipment.

Currently, almost 70 percent of Russia’s needs for baggage tractors is met by Minsk Tractor Works, based in Belarus. Most of the company’s “tractors,” however, are largely made specifically for agriculture. The remaining 30 percent of the market for baggage tractors account from imports from the United States and Western Europe.

Self-propelled passenger stairs are very much the same case. The biggest supplier to Russia for such GSE remains the Kharkov State Aircraft Manufacturing Co., located in the Ukraine. Currently, the production at this plant is used at more than 50 percent of Russia’s provincial airports.

Finally, most of the aircraft-towing vehicles currently used in Russia is supplied by BelAZ, a Belarusian maker that got its start in 1948 manufacturing earth-moving equipment. The company started making aircraft tow tractors in 1978.

According to Dmitry Ochkinas, a senior sales manager of Cavag, one of the largest importers of ramp equipment to the Russian market, the biggest demand at the moment is for deicing machines, a curious example of GSE that is not produced in Russia, despite the country’s harsh winters.

High demand is currently also observed for self loaders, aircraft towing tractors, high-capacity snow-removal auger scrapers, water units, as well as vacuum trucks for toilet services.

 

Eugene Gerden is an international free-lance writer, who covers the global aviation and ground support industry. He writes for numerous industry publications and can be reached at gerden.eug@googlemail.com.

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