The decade-long brotherhood is finally over after Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko’s proclamation to terminate cooperation with Russia in the field of aviation. This marks the end of plans to jointly develop a successor of the large An-124 freighter but also affects practically all civil and military projects. As a consequence, Ukraine’s aviation sector needs new industrial partners and market perspectives.
Poroshenko’s announcement didn’t come unexpectedly since the times in which both countries teamed up to initiate joint aviation projects ended with Moscow’s Crimea annexation and the undisguised support for the separatists trying to establish their own Russia-oriented regime in the eastern parts of the Ukraine. Meanwhile, both former blood brothers are separated by more than just a border.
In light of these unfavorable external circumstances it seems to make little sense to stick to joint aviation projects that once stood high on the common agenda but have become victims of the latest political and military controversies between Kiev and Moscow. From this perspective it is logical that Poroshenko decided to show his country’s former industrial partner the cold shoulder. What has been broken to pieces cannot be molded together anymore, he argues.
Prominent victim of this political rift is the “Ruslan” project that foresaw the building of 55 new freighters within the next sixteen to eighteen years. Interestingly enough, only weeks before the crisis broke out, both countries had concluded the resumption of the transporter’s production. This was sealed in a pact between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s meanwhile ousted former President Victor Yanukovitch that both politicians proudly presented the media in December 2013. However, the accord lasted no longer than two months, when in February the Russian side announced cutting the budget for aircraft production by 30 percent. As a result of this one-sided financial maneuver by Moscow each single aviation project once agreed between both sides was scratched from the program’s list.
Today, the status is that Russia will try to independently set up the assembly of a rejuvenated An-124, without any support of the Poroshenko government or the plane’s former Ukrainian namesake, Antonov Design Bureau. The Russians are convinced that they can manage developing a revamped version of the An-124 by themselves, without any documentation provided by Antonov, the licensed owner of all technical “Ruslan” data (for details see CFG issue of 1 June).
New clients wanted
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian aircraft industry is in search for new customers to market their products. This accounts particularly for their regional passenger aircraft An-148 and An-158, with the latter believed to have the better commercial perspective. General interest to order this jet that can accommodate up to 99 passengers transporting them over a range of 2,500 kilometers came from airlines in Africa, Far East, Latin America and the CIS countries. So far, however, only Cuban carrier Cubana de Aviacion has signed a firm order for six Ukraine-built An-158s. So there is considerable scope for more sales.
Meanwhile, the Poroshenko government filed a formal complaint to ICAO demanding high compensation payments from Russian airlines serving the Moscow annexed Crimea peninsula. Kiev argues that due to the military occupation Ukrainian carriers are cut off from an important part of their former domestic passenger and cargo market. The government invokes the Chicago Convention that stipulates sanctions to be imposed in such cases. Should Russia refuse to pay, the Ukrainian government intends to file an application for depriving them of their voting rights in ICAO’s General Assembly.
If so, this would clearly evidence that the times of brotherhood in aviation and other matters between Russia and the Ukraine are definitely over.