ALMATY – Foreign experts are calling Arai Agro, Kazakhstan’s first domestic light aircraft, a “flying SUV” for its size and agility. The plane was demonstrated for domestic and international experts on April 27, showing off its acrobatic capabilities for more than an hour against the background of the snow-capped peaks of the Zaili Alatau Mountains near Almaty.
The plane, designed for the application of pesticides, was built by Almaty’s Aviamaster Aircraft in cooperation with Canadian developing company Zenair Ltd. The plane can fly up to 1,200 kilometres at an altitude of 4,200 meters. Domestic specialists made 30 changes to the components and design of the plane in order to adapt it for Kazakhstan’s climate and A-95 gasoline. The small, maneuverable jet does not require hangar storage or prepared runways. Floats give it the ability to land on water and it also has skis for operation in snow-covered areas or over water.
“The cost of the plane is $198,000, and working over an area of 200,000 hectares, it pays for itself in 2.5 years. Our company is involved in the production of aircraft, but not in their assemblage. Our Canadian partners supply us with rolled sheets and we cut parts, wings and fuselages from it,” said Director of Aviamaster Aircraft Dauren Valiyev.
In addition to crop dusting, the plane can be used to transport passengers and freight and control power transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines, as well as to patrol borders. It can also be used for the airborne geophysical exploration of minerals, in anti-poaching operations and to evacuate patients from remote and inaccessible places.
Manufacturing aircraft may be a way for Kazakhstan’s small and medium-sized businesses to develop. In the United States and Canada, 562 small businesses built the lion’s share (80 percent) of more than 250,000 light jets for various purposes. Small aviation in the United States generates $150 billion per year. The widespread use of aviation technologies in the economy gives a huge economic multiplier effect with a ratio of 1:80; the ratio of technical innovation in SMEs with respect to the larger companies is 1:16.
In the U.S., it is estimated that each year more than 1,600 small and medium-sized businesses (operating 3,260 aircraft and helicopters) and more than 10,000 private farmer-owned aircraft are used in air-chemical crop protection alone.
“The result of Kazakh-Canadian cooperation in the field of such high-tech manufacturing as aircraft engineering for the needs of the countryside corresponds to the policy of industrial-innovative development and agricultural industrialisation of Kazakhstan actively pursued by President Nursultan Nazarbayev,” Ambassador of Canada to Kazakhstan Stephen Millar noted in his speech.
Today, Kazakh aircraft are exported to Russia. Other countries in the region, including Mongolia, have expressed an interest in them.
Ninety-five percent of Kazakhstan’s 200,000 farms and agro-formations are small acreage, from 50-1,000 hectares, and using larger agricultural planes like the standard AN-2 is not economically feasible for them. The agile Arai Agro could fill this gap, providing small-scale domestic farmers with high-tech options.