I had the opportunity to spend a week in Russia last month, just before and during MAKS 2009, or the Moscow Air Show. This bi-annual show featured a number of what I’d call weird and wonderful aircraft.
It was a weird and wonderful experience for me in a different way, too, as this was my first trip to Russia that was not in the dead of winter! I sure loved seeing green grass in Moscow this time around.
The static display at MAKS featured some very unusual (at least to my eyes) airplanes - including the Concorde-like TU144.
I have to say I was very impressed with the intellectual capital I found in the Russian aviation industry - and with the level of concern and interest among industry figures and media in the state of the business right now.
Just prior to the show, I hosted a media briefing at the Boeing Design Center in Moscow. About 20 news articles came out of that. So we had good media impressions and I think there was lots of attention around questions of when the market will come back.
But you know what was probably the number one issue on the media’s mind at the Moscow show? Whether Russia and the manufacturers there will be competitors to Boeing in the future. I also noticed a high level of interest in the regional jet market - naturally because of the homegrown Superjet 100.
I do have to make one note here about the sad occurrences just prior to the Moscow show. The crash of two air force jets during a rehearsal flight took the life of the commander of the elite Russian Knights aerobatic team. Our condolences go out to the squadron and the pilot’s family as well as the family of a woman on the ground who later died from injuries resulting from the impact. Aerial exhibitions at air shows are never routine, and clearly the danger and risks are very real.
Back to the show itself, I’ve been to many air shows over a number of years, and I always walk away with a positive impression of our industry. This one was no exception.
When I looked at the technologies in Russia, the innovation, the passion of people for aviation, it was incredible.
The giant wing of the A-50 (IL76) on static display provided shelter for us during a downpour at the Moscow show.
This show is noted for the opportunity to really get close to the aircraft on display (see above). Thanks to my Boeing colleague in Moscow, Mike Savchenko, I was able to get on board the TU144 for a tour and a visit to the flight deck (below).
Inside the TU144 flight deck.
Oh, did I mention that there was a fun Russian-made full-flight 737 simulator on exhibit at the show?
Boeing also had our own exhibit and hosted a visit from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Boeing Russia President Sergey Kravchencho.
Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Boeing Russia President Sergey Kravchenko (standing, center), examine the Boeing 787 flight demonstrator at MAKS 2009.
Mr. Putin spent hours at the show, walking through the exhibits, doing speeches and press briefings. I’ve seen heads of state at air shows before, but the prime minister’s concentration and focus on the show and the industry was really something to see.
You can watch a short clip of the visit below.
On the airplane on the way home from Russia, I thought back about what I had just done and where I had just been. And really, as someone who was born in the 1950s and grew up in 1960s, this was an experience I could never have dreamed of having. Being in Moscow! Seeing both Russian military and commercial airplanes up close. This is something that as a kid, I could never have fathomed.
Finally, no country report for Randy’s Journal would be complete without my mentioning some of the food I got to enjoy. As you may have guessed by now, I’m what you might call a “foodie.” Even my children bug me about it. Well, on this trip my meals included Russian, Georgian and Uzbek cuisine. I have to admit I especially loved the Georgian cheese bread called khachapuri.
I’m sure I’ll be back again to Moscow for any number of reasons, and not just for the bread. Believe it or not, after several visits over the years, I still have not made it to Red Square to see the Kremlin!