Gazprom intends to invest in Russian aviation

16.01.2005, 00.57

MOSCOW, January 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom intends to invest in Russian aviation, the vice-chairman of the company's board Alexander Ryazanov told the participants in the Russian Air Antarctic Expedition at the Vnukovo airport on Saturday.

Ryazanov explained that it would like to channel major investments in the production of new aircraft. "It is vitally important for us to enable aircraft to land not only on the chassis but also on skies, floats, ice airfields and water," he clarified.

He added that Gazprom was planning to develop the Yamal peninsula where hard weather conditions don't permit using western equipment and where Russian equipment has given a good account of itself.

Ryazanov recalled the 2002 expedition to the Antarctic on an AN-3 plane, which covered 1,500 kilometres at an altitude of 6,000 metres to reach the South Pole. However, the aircraft landed but couldn't be started up again. Therefore, it stayed put. In compliance with the terms of the Madrid protocol, the Russian side had to evacuate the aircraft from the Antarctic. An unprecedented mission was carried out. An Il-76 aircraft with Ukrainian and Russian experts onboard was mobilized to evacuate the stranded An-3 plane. Russian State Duma Deputy Arthur Chilingarov who arrived at the plane's wintering ground in the Antarctic early in January personally supervised an operation to evacuate the aircraft.

"We managed to repair the aircraft that had been trapped in extremely hard climatic conditions for three years. The aircraft flew to the IL-76 parking on its own and was then loaded on its board," Chilingarov said.

"The plane will get a second life now, the AN-3 has proven to be reliable and suitable for work in severe northern parts of our country," the deputy emphasized."