For a number of years now, the Russian Helicopters holding company has been the sole manager of Russia’s rotorcraft industry. The sector is now in the final phase of consolidation, during which its production capacities will be overhauled and the future product range determined. Andrey Shibitov, general director of Russian Helicopters, told Russia & CIS Observer Editor-in-Chief Maxim Pyadushkin about the first results of the consolidation process and the industry’s most important projects.
Russia & CIS Observer: The global aerospace sector is reeling under the financial and economic crisis. To what extent has the declining demand for new aviation equipment affected Russian helicopter manufacturers? What anti-crisis measures is Russian Helicopters planning to implement?
Andrey Shibitov: For the time being we continue to work on the existing contracts and there have been no customer cancellations so far. Despite the crisis, enterprises of Russian Helicopters built 169 rotorcraft last year, or 3% more than planned – a growth rate of 60% from 2007. We hope to further increase output. Under our production plan through 2011, at least 231 helicopters must be built this year. We still stand by our strategic development task of gaining 15% of the global helicopter market by 2015.
But the global financial and economic situation has indeed changed. The challenge facing Russian helicopter manufacturers is to use state funds for speeding up industrial reform and increasing the competitiveness of their products, rather than making up for immediate profit losses. Specifically for this purpose we have developed medium-term development programs for the Russian helicopter industry.
We have also set up our vision of what support we expect from the state. There are a number of federal programs in place, but these will be implemented only from 2011. The years 2009 and 2010, therefore, may become particularly difficult for the industry, and anti-crisis state support will be especially welcome during that period.
RCO: Consolidation of Russian helicopter manufacturers into a single holding company is now virtually complete. What is to be done now in order to increase the industry’s production efficiency?
AS: Russian Helicopters has entered the final phase of consolidation. We are completing the construction of a helicopter engineering center in Panki, Moscow Region. It will comprise two design bureaus, a flight test center, an experimental production facility and a research center.
A project has been developed for overhauling the holding company’s production capacities. An ideology has been defined for the key centers of excellence and business units. In the new configuration of Russia’s helicopter industry, production facilities will play the crucial part of forming a competitive image of the industry for the current and future production projects.
RCO: What new products are Russian helicopter manufacturers planning to introduce so as to strengthen their positions on the global market?
AS: We are planning to supplement our product range with a high-speed helicopter. This will be a breakthrough product based on the future technologies of 2015-20. Work on this program is being led by both our design bureaus. However, it will be quite difficult to carry through with our own money, and its timeframe is directly dependent on government funding.
RCO: In 2008 your parent company, Oboronprom, announced the project to assemble AgustaWestland helicopters in Russia. Do these plans still stand?
AS: We are not abandoning this project. Last summer was signed an agreement on setting up a joint venture to assemble AW139 medium twin-engine helicopters in Russia. We are now working on a draft license agreement, which will be an important element in the necessary legal paperwork. Preliminary work is already under way in Panki, where an AgustaWestland assembly line will be built from scratch. The facility is expected to be launched in 2010. Already in 2011 Russian-assembled AW139s will be available in Russia and across the CIS.