A look at MAKS 2013

6 November 2013

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Zhukovsky – 40 km southeast of Moscow, and the home of the Gromov Flight Research Insititute – was the site of MAKS 2013. Dim Jones reports.

This eleventh in the biennial series of the International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS 2013) took place between 27th and 31st August 2013. Although it lacked the showpiece features of its predecessor, such as the first appearance in Russia of the A-380, the first public appearance of the 5th-generation Sukhoi T-50 fighter and the strong contingent of US military aircraft, there was still plenty to see. The weather was unusually cool for a Moscow summer and, for the first part of the week at least, the rain held off, although the public days at the weekend were weather-affected; nevertheless, an estimated 350000 people visited the show over the period. For those who had braved the dire transport arrangements of Le Bourget some weeks previously, the first noticeable feature of this show was the organisation. True, there was the same fierce competition to see how many souls could be packed into a single bus, without benefit of air conditioning; and Zhukovsky is in a largely rural area, albeit abutting the city of the same name. However, there was a not-so-small army of policemen and other marshals on hand – 3600 of them according to the official website - to maintain security and to ensure that traffic flowed, the latter helped by the closure of the city’s streets to all vehicles without a MAKS pass.

On arrival at the show, visitors entered via the extensive static park, in which were displayed a wide range of aircraft past and present, military and civilian, fixed- and rotary-wing. They included some types previously known to Cold War warriors such as myself only from aircraft recognition slides, and others that have since become a familiar part of air shows worldwide. The exhibition site, though small by Paris and Farnborough standards, was well laid out and, again, marshalled by a host of guides. The exhibitor list boasted 575 Russian companies and 389 ‘foreign’ from 44 nations and, although a good proportion of the latter were from Russia’s close neighbours, there was still a good representation of exhibitors from further afield. Exhibitors who, clearly successfully, braved the notoriously rigorous customs regulations included, as noted by Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, “such global tycoons as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Siemens”. Exhibitors from many countries were co-located, some around national pavilions, and several sharing stands. This was reflected by the host nation in the joint presentation of fixed-wing aircraft manufacturers Beriev, Ilyushin, Irkut, Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Tupolev and Yakovlev under the banner of the United Aircraft Corporation, and Kamov, Mil and Kazan as Russian Helicopters. UAC and RH are joint stock companies, created at the behest of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin and with the Russian government as the majority stakeholder. The aim was to streamline and standardise financial regulation, to promote constructive and eliminate destructive competition, and encourage best practice. Those I spoke to were of the opinion that the initiative had proved effective.

In common with other major air shows the emphasis was on hardware and there were relatively few training-related products on display; Dinamika and Transas both displayed FTDs for military helicopters, and Flight Studio Technology an A-320 device. Irkut had on show an L3D category Fixed-Base Simulator for the new MS-21 family of short- to mid-range airliners. There is as yet no parallel organisation to UAC and RH for companies engaged in the provision of training; however, there is a great deal of collaboration going on, both formal and informal, especially in the field of simulation between such as Transas, Kronshtadt and Dinamika. They are also forming partnerships with non-Russian companies for export purposes. There was a variance of views as to the degree to which external perceptions of Russian simulator technology might affect sales potential; this was limited to air systems since, as ably demonstrated by Transas, there appears to be no such bar for maritime equipment. There were also differing views on whether restrictions on the ‘export’ of military technology, as applied to systems with world-wide application - such as Russian military helicopters – could also have an adverse effect. The CEO of Kronshtadt, Alexander Golovko, expressed a desire to see more facilities for conducting serious business at air show venues around the world. Flight Studio Technology, a relatively young St Petersburg-based organisation, operates only in the civil air training market and only – thus far – within Russia. Their FTDs are produced in 4 levels, ranging from desktop devices to fully-enclosed cockpits, with the standard application being the A-320, but with options for A-330 and, in the future, MS-21. FST also have ambitions to branch out into the FFS market, and have developed the New EVOlution Simulator System (NEVOSS), a generic ICAO Level 7 device. The company’s emphasis is on exploiting the lateral thinking of a youthful workforce, and developing new technologies, which can then be applied to existing platforms.

The flying was limited for the trade days, with a full programme on the public days. Eye catching solo displays included the latest variants of Su-27 and MiG-29, performing manoeuvres which 15 years ago would have been viewed as outrageous, but which now have become routine, though no less demanding for that; there was a spirited overseas contribution from Rafale, and impressive turns from the Kamov-52 Alligator attack helicopter and the Antonov 70 medium-range transport. The Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 fifth-generation fighter made another appearance; although its display was somewhat more lively than on its debut appearance 2 years ago, there is clearly some way to go before the aircraft is ready to explore its full flight envelope. On the civil side, A-380 and SuperJet took to the skies, and the crowds were entertained by several aerobatic teams: the Breitling Team in their L-29s; the Swifts, Falcons and Russian Knights in their MiG-29s and Su-27s from the host nation; and last, but not least, the first appearance outside China of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force ‘1st August’ team in their Chengdu J-10s.

In sum, MAKS 2013 may not have had some of the ‘star turns’ of the 2011 events, but it was a friendly and well-organised event, which will have furthered the cause of Russian aviation, both at home and abroad.


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