Raise Your Hand if You Like Flying Russian Aircraft


I’m going to take a wild guess that the only people raising their hands are airline dorks, and even the dorks get steamed up about the copycat nature of many Russian designs. (Think the TU-154 on the left looks like the Boeing 727 on the right?)


I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone else has visions of frequent, fiery plane crashes when they think of Russian airliners. In reality, the aircraft themselves aren’t necessarily unsafe. They’ve had engine problems in the past, sure, but procedures and air traffic control also contribute. What really matters here is that it’s rare to find one of these in a country outside of the former USSR or world outcasts like Cuba, North Korea, or Iran. That automatically makes westerners suspicious.

It’s clear why some of these countries get Russian aircraft – they aren’t allowed to buy western ones (or parts for them) due to political issues, but that’s not the same in Russia, where many airlines have expressed interest in acquiring western airliners. The reason it hasn’t happened more? For years, the Russian government, in a decidedly non-free market attempt to bolster the Russian aircraft industry, has put a hefty 20% tax on the purchase of non-Russian airliners.

This effectively killed many airlines’ attempts to buy new Western aircraft and left them choosing from the Russian birds. Now, the Moscow Times reports (username required) that the country is going to propose scrapping the tax. This means there will probably be a flood of western airliners entering the Russian market. It also will make the Russian industry actually have to compete on a level playing field. I think if this goes through, we can either expect to see some great new Russian designs or we’ll see the end of civil aircraft production in that country.

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