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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zhukovsky Air Show Lacks Key Exhibitors

While more than 300,000 people and many of the world's leading aerospace companies turned up at the Moscow International Air Show this week, equally telling for the industry were the no-shows.

Besides President Boris Yeltsin, whose failure to appear as scheduled at the show's opening at the Zhukovsky air base on Tuesday led to renewed speculation about his health, the exhibition was ignored by such aerospace giants as Boeing, Bell Helicopter, British Aerospace and Lockheed.

Darren Condon, a spokesman for British Aerospace, said the company usually looks at the potential market and takes part only in the most promising exhibitions.

"We are taking part in 30 exhibitions every year. But we could not take part in all. This is just a question of priorities," he said in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in London.

Bob Lider, spokesman for Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., was less diplomatic, saying the company sees very few business opportunities on the Russian market. "We have provided the Moscow police with one Bell helicopter but the Moscow government could not buy more because of lack of funds," he said.

Dick Kenny, a spokesman for Boeing Co., said the company viewed the Russian market with promise, but he declined to say why it was not participating in the Moscow event. The new 777 jet on which the manufacturer has staked its future is being exhibited elsewhere and is not planned for sale in Russia, he said.

But other companies were more bullish about prospects in Russia.

The booths at the show -- modeled after the renowned international Le Bourget and Farnborough -- were lined with the biggest names in the aerospace industry: Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce, Daimler Benz Aerospace, McDonnell-Douglas, United Technologies and General Electric -- companies that already have large programs in Russia. In all, the show featured some 400 companies from 23 countries.

"Although it is a small percentage of our operations, we are interested in this market, it is an important market and we can bring a lot to this market," said Herbert Pokorny, vice president for GE's engine market development division.

Airbus Industrie, a consortium of British, French, German and Spanish companies, Boeing's main competitor on the world market, exhibited its new twin-engine A-321 passenger liner.

Experts say Russia's potential domestic demand is huge. Half of Russia's aircraft had long since outlived their warranty and are in dire need of replacement. Airbus Industrie estimates the demand for about 80 planes a year.

At the same time airlines do not seem eager to buy Russian-built jets because they are economically unsuited for the country's new market climate. Most also cannot afford to buy Western-manufactured jets because of lack of funds and a 30 percent tax on foreign aircraft.

According to Yury Kashtanov, a director of the Tupolev company, the only way to escape this "vicious circle" is to build Russian jets in cooperation with foreign companies.

New Tu-204 and Tu-334 passenger jets with engines from Britain's Rolls Royce, which were being shown at Zhukovsky, could satisfy demands of the domestic market, he said.

The exhibition also has showcased other fruits of international cooperation -- the Il-96M and Beriyev-32 with Pratt & Whitney engines, and the Antonov-38 with engines made by the American company Garrette.

"All these aircraft have export opportunities but the general orientation of the show is a domestic market," said Kashtanov.

The military aspect of the show, however, was aimed at the foreign buyers. It included production of major Russian weapons' manufacturers, which exhibited top-of-the-line Su-32FH, MiG-33, Kamov-50 and various missile systems.

"The show will help us to make necessary contacts and increase export of our production abroad," said a spokesman for the Machinery Design Bureau, Russia's manufacturer of the Tochka tactical missile system.

"The first days showed that there is a great interest for our production from potential foreign buyers," said an official from the Antei company, manufacturer of S-300v missile complexes.

Although potential buyers from India, Latin America, Syria and Saudi Arabia were at the show, major Western military manufacturers did not come.

"Moscow is still not the place to show modern weapons," said an official of one Western company, who declined to be named. "Companies producing arms are very conservative ... There are traditional places to show the weaponry."