The Council of the Russian Federation has announced a round-table discussion with representatives of the Federal Executive, the states, the scientific community, agriculture aviation operators, farmers and other members to discuss agricultural aviation legislation in Russia. The goal is to remove inconsistencies in current activities to better develop the industry. According to Russia’s Agricultural Development Assistance Fund, which initiated the meeting, agricultural aviation is essential for the plan to increase the country’s agricultural productivity by up to 4.5% next year.
The meeting will also have members of the Duma (legislative body) and the expectation is that a clearer, more rational and consistent rule of agricultural aviation will facilitate the life of those who work with good practices and discourage clandestinity. According to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, the country has about 240 registered agricultural aircraft and at least as many more aircraft operating without accurate registration. However, the legislation of the Slavic country itself opens up loopholes. For example, anyone who is a pilot may buy an aircraft (including ultralights) and offer services directly to farmers without any legality.
The need to plan with industry development authorities came to fruition in May 2018 at the 1st Russian Conference on Agricultural Aviation Development – held at the Helicopter Industry Expo (HeliRussia 2018). At the time, one of the concerns voiced at the event was that currently no aviation schools in Russia offer agricultural pilot courses.
Russian authorities rushed to resolve issues with the agricultural aviation sector primarily because of the 50% increase in grain exports in 2018 compared to 2017. Although, Russia still purchases soybeans from Brazil. In 2016, Russia overtook the United States in wheat exports and last year became the largest exporter of cereals in the world, after ousting the European Community (including selling to Brazil). Not bad, considering that in 2010 the Russians had lost 50% of their production capacity in the previous 20 years.
Now in Russia agricultural aviation is considered essential for the next phases of development in the agriculture. Incidentally, in 2017 at the MAKS 2017 Airshow in Moscow, the companies A.G. Romashin and MVEN presented the project of the T-500, the first agricultural aircraft designed and certified (August 2018) in modern Russia. This is the first step to replace the aging and obsolete Antonov AN-2, still the bulk of the legal agricultural aviation fleet in the country.
Federal Air Transport Agency of Russia granted the type certificate to the T-500 for agricultural flights on September 6, 2018, becoming the first certified aircraft specifically for agricultural use. The T-500 certification program started in August, 2017, after the signing of the agreement between MVEN Company (the Republic of Tatarstan), the aircraft designer, and the Aviation Register of Russia within the framework of the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2017.
The T-500 is a new-generation aircraft for agricultural work. The aircraft has a composite airframe and can be operated in various environmental conditions. The T-500 is equipped with a high-speed parachute system making it possible to provide the rescue of both the aircraft and its pilot. The vehicle can be useful in the monitoring of the environment (especially in the fire season), inspection of large industrial facilities, weather control, forest pest control and oil spill response. According to ORPE Technologiya, the aircraft can treat up to 150 ha (370 acres) per hour. Its hopper is reported to hold 440 kg (970 pounds). In September 2018, the aircraft was introduced with flotation landing gear replacing its conventional landing gear.
Having successfully passed a full range of tests, the T-500 confirmed its claimed performance. In the course of flight and ground tests, two experimental versions of the aircraft were used. The application of state-of-the-art basic polymer composite structures were used in the T-500 aircraft. This process was done by ORPE Technologiya named after A.G. Romashin, a part of the State Corporation Rostec (the holding company RT-Chemcomposite).
“Obtaining certification makes it possible to begin production of the T-500, as well as operate the aircraft for commercially. Projected production capacity is up to 120 aircraft for 2019. A number of ministries and departments, including Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Forestry Agency, as well as other regions in Russia have expressed interest in the lightweight and efficient aircraft,” pointed out Sergey Abramov, the Industrial Director of Weapons Cluster of the State Corporation Rostec.
RusAvia orders 10 T-500s for 2019
ORPE Technologiya, a part of the holding company RT-Chemcomposite of the Rostec State Corporation, is leading the T-500 project as the manufacturer of the T-500 composite airframe structure and glazing. The designer of the aircraft is MVEN Company. Executive Director of LLC Aeropraktika (the subsidiary enterprise of ORPE Technologiya) Mikhail Udalov and Director General of Russian Aviation Co. Ltd (RusAvia Ltd) (the Republic of Bashkortostan) Dmitry Toropov signed a supply agreement in the presence of Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov for the delivery of 10 T-500 aircraft by October 2019.
According to the agreement, Aeropraktika is to supply to RusAvia the first 10 production aircraft T-500 manufactured by ORPE Technologiya. The amount of the contract is more than 200 million rubles ($3,040,500 USD). The aviation company RusAvia will become the leading operator of the aircraft, which obtained the type certificate within the framework of HYDROAVIASALON-2018.
“The aircraft are to be used in carrying-out of aerial application work in the territory of the Russian Federation. The Republic of Tatarstan and the Republic of Bashkortostan will be the first regions to utilize the aircraft. Ufa Airport is to become the aircrafts’ base,” stated Dmitry Toropov, Director General of RusAvia.
“The project has great potential for further development since the T-500 is a universal aircraft. We have already presented a modification of the T-500 aircraft with floatation landing gear within the framework of HYDROAVIASALON.. At present, in cooperation with the designer we are working on developing a two-seater training version of the aircraft”, said Andrei Silkin, Director General of ORPE Technologiya.