Russian Government Officials to Commute by Helicopter in 2013

File Photo of Russian MI-26 Helicopter in Afghanistan with MI-17 Helicopter In Background

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Irina Filatova – December 28, 2012)

President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are likely to swap their armored limousines for helicopters next year, as the city center will be equipped with several landing pads, head of the presidential affairs office Vladimir Kozhin said Thursday.

The pads might appear on the territory of the Kremlin and near the White House in the first quarter of next year as part of the effort to create a system of transportation routes above Moscow, he told Interfax. Kozhin said the plan had received approval from the authorities.

“The options for developing the air corridors are being investigated, and others will get a chance to move by helicopters in the future ­ not only the president and the prime minister,” Kozhin said, without specifying who else would be able to use the system.

Federal law bans flights over Moscow, with the existing 13 landing pads in the city used only by the police, hospitals and the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Developing a system of air transportation corridors involves a set of actions which includes amending current legislation, said Viktor Khrekov, a spokesman for the Office for Presidential Affairs. The move is aimed at reducing the city’s heavy traffic jams, he added.

Roads closed to facilitate movement of Putin’s and Medvedev’s motorcades between the city center and their residences on Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse create headaches for city motorists.

Developing air corridors above Moscow will be beneficial for city residents, as it will facilitate the use of helicopters by emergency services, said Oleg Panteleyev, editor-in-chief of the Aviaport.ru industry portal.

He added that the move might also advance the commercial use of choppers, which can be used for air excursions above Moscow.

“Moscow should become a helicopter-friendly capital, like New York, London or Paris,” Panteleyev said. “It’s obvious that business is ready to provide such services: there are companies that have a good fleet and personnel.”

Business will be ready to build land infrastructure, like landing pads on the Moscow river embankment, as soon as the necessary conditions for the flights are created, Panteleyev said, adding that building a helicopter pad isn’t expensive.

Kozhin said putting the country’s leaders into helicopters wouldn’t require additional purchases of choppers, as the aviation fleet of the special air group Rossia, which carries the president and senior officials, is constantly updated.

The state-owned firm, which reports directly to presidential affairs office, recently received a few new Mi-choppers made by Russian Helicopters. Kozhin said his office had also purchased two new choppers made by Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland, which will begin local production soon.

Kozhin promised that building a helicopter-landing pad near the Kremlin wouldn’t damage the country’s historic landmarks.

“We chose the location with maximum caution. The pad won’t affect any of the historical and cultural parts of the Kremlin,” Kozhin said.

He didn’t specify the possible location for the helicopter deck, saying only that it won’t be built on Cathedral Square.