Air Transportation System

Air transportation played an important role in uniting the farflung and remote areas of the Soviet Union. It began to develop prior to the Russian Revolution. Growth continued during the years between World Wars I and II and it expanded greatly after World War II. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union claimed to have more scheduled airline service than any other country in the world. In 1991, Moscow had direct air links to every large city in the Soviet Union. Aeroflot, the official Soviet airline, was state-owned. It held world records for number of aircraft, distance flown, and passengers carried. Even so, air transportation accounted for only a small percentage of the total goods transported in the Soviet Union. The breakup of the Soviet Union disrupted the integrated all-union air system. Every former Soviet republic has now formed its own airline, or linked with other republics to form new airlines. After years of mismanagement, Aeroflot (today, Russia’s official airline) is finally emerging as a sound carrier. It has upgraded its aircraft, purchasing U.S. and western European planes. Aeroflot has succeeded in recovering from a very difficult, disruptive period in the early 1990s.

Russia benefits tremendously from its air transportation system. It would be unable to operate on a day-to-day basis without a well-developed network. Roads and railroads are important, but because of the vast distances to be covered, air transportation is the backbone of Russia’s network for carrying both people and goods. Eleven time zones are quickly spanned by plane, but it takes a full week to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok by railroad. Some cities in northeastern Russia will never have any connection except air links to the outside world. They are too remote and have too few people to economically justify building and maintaining modern ground connections.

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