Interview with the new General Director of Russian Helicopters JSC Nikolai Kolesov
Tatarstan business resource "BUSINESS Online" under the heading "Nikolai Kolesov:" I do KHP for a couple of hours every day. The situation is really difficult." The new CEO of Russian Helicopters on big plans and workers receiving up to 100 thousand , published an interview with the new CEO of JSC Russian Helicopters Nikolai Kolesov.
“I accepted the offer to head Russian Helicopters, because I believe that my knowledge and experience will help the holding meet the growing domestic demand for modern equipment, as well as strengthen its position in the global market,” said Nikolai Kolesov in a brief exclusive interview with BUSINESS Online . Also, the new CEO of BP told what kind of specialists the industry lacks and how much he is willing to pay them, explained whether he would lobby for the interests of his native Kazan aviation industry, explained why he slowed down new construction at Kazan Helicopter Plant, and was indignant at the slowness of work on Ansat.
Wheels and helicopters
To this day, Nikolai Kolesov, a businessman from the military-industrial complex closely associated with Tatarstan, has not publicly commented on his high-profile appointment (held on December 1, 2021) as the CEO of Russian Helicopters (BP) and has not made statements about his plans for a high position. Nevertheless, the industry public is aware that, having arrived shortly after his appointment at the Kazan Helicopter Plant (KVZ), he made a kind of keynote speech in a narrow circle. Main theses: salary increase for employees; return to the directors of full power in enterprises; a professional reference point is the team of Alexander Lavrentiev, who led the Kazan Helicopter Plant in 1984–2007.
It is clear what made Kolesov leave the “quiet” position of the general director of the Radioelectronic Technologies Concern (KRET). The post of head of one of the key defense industrial holdings is a very serious career peak. Here, several factors came together, such as stagnation in the helicopter industry, the planned rotation of the heads of holdings, etc. At the same time, Kolesov himself went into the helicopter industry for more than one year, at least from 2016, he even managed to create a competitor for the helicopter holding in one of the main lines of his activities - he made his own version of the Ansat helicopter at the KRET-controlled Kazan company Rychag. And, importantly, Kolesov himself formed a market for him - he pushed through the idea of creating a national air ambulance service (NSSA) in the government of the Russian Federation as a single federal operator of air ambulance services. Potentially, this is more than one hundred helicopters, as well as the organization of ground infrastructure and, in general, the entire system for providing air medical care. As a result, Rostec ordered Kazan Helicopter Plant to make this machine along with a helicopter developed by the factory design bureau.
It should also be noted that, having taken power in BP, Kolesov put an end to the dominance of the Ulan-Ude aircraft plant in the helicopter industry.
Around 2025, helicopter demand is expected to pick up again. But until then, we still have to live. Today, in the Russian segment of the industry, we do not see a development strategy; instead, a set of disparate programs. There is a delay in projects, the degradation of design and workforce, the growth of bureaucratization. Kolesov must solve all these questions. There is an opinion that, first of all, he will be engaged in restoring order at the Kazan Helicopter Plant. And, of course, there is also a compatriot aspect: Kolesov is from Kazan, owns a number of enterprises here, for example, Elecon, KOMZ, Kazan Electrotechnical Plant (from where the head of BP invited the new general director of Kazan Helicopter Plant Vladimir Ginsburg).
In recent years, Kazan Helicopter Plant has seen systemic failures in management, resulting in problems with orders, supplies, and personnel. In 2019, the Kazan plant delivered only 27 helicopters - a historical minimum for the enterprise (the maximum in the recent history of Kazan Helicopter Plant was in 2014 - 107 helicopters). In 2020 - 39. In 2021, I planned to report about 72, but it turned out to be no more than 60. Among the main tasks of Kolesov at Kazan Helicopters are to solve the problem of the enterprise's gigantic debt - more than 30 billion rubles; increase the margin (for example, judging by the reporting, the plant has to sacrifice the markup for Ansat); to bring to mind new modifications of the Ansat, Mi-8, to get rid of childhood illnesses of the Mi-38; to staff the enterprise with personnel; provide download. There is only one positive moment so far: none of the Russian helicopter factories has such a diverse model range - at the same time light,
“Now you write this, and intermediaries will immediately fuss around the plant like ants”
- Nikolai Aleksandrovich, why did you risk changing KRET to Russian Helicopters, the demand from which the country's leadership has the highest?
- Personnel decisions of this kind are made by the leadership of Rostec. I agreed to lead Russian Helicopters because I believe that my knowledge and experience in production and commercial matters will help the holding meet the growing domestic demand for modern equipment, as well as strengthen its position in the global market.
— How would you assess the situation at Kazan Helicopter Plant? What causes the most concern?
- No worries - a lot of questions. First of all, according to Ansat. The process of its modernization was greatly delayed.
Yesterday I saw Ansat-M in the final assembly shop. But, if we are making a unified new generation machine, everything must be included in it - a glass cockpit, air conditioning, additional tanks, and anti-icing. There is no glass cabin yet, so I gave the order: this year, work on a unified machine should be completed so that it meets all the requirements of consumers. Well, how can a new helicopter be released without air conditioning ?!
In the near future, the experimental design bureau of KVZ will become a branch of the national helicopter center and will receive additional competencies in the Mi-8/17 and Mi-38 - we need to help in their modernization, and not just endlessly deal with Ansat.
— Why did the once super-profitable Kazan Helicopter Plant fall into decay?
— The plant boomed under Lavrentiev and in 2014-2015, during a very large export order, and when it came down… Of course, some internal factors played, but you shouldn’t overdramatize the situation. Look at the world market for helicopters - in recent years it has fallen by 30-40 percent. This is an absolutely normal situation associated with the rearmament cycle in a number of countries, changes in oil prices and a decrease in demand for helicopter transportation. In 2010-2011, Airbus produced 500 helicopters a year, today - 250, Leonardo also sank by 50 percent, but no one talks about decline, because everyone understands perfectly well that the market develops in a spiral: after a period of growth, there always comes a recession and vice versa. Today the need has gone up.
- There is an opinion that the export of the Mi-17 fell because the price of the helicopter was raised. Do you agree with this point of view?
- Not. Sometimes we sell cars only 1.15 times higher than the price of the state defense order. But we do not remove the blame from ourselves. For example, they did not pay due attention to after-sales service. 6,883 of our helicopters fly abroad, but there is simply no service. Now, in a month, we have done what has been asking for a long time - we have opened a regional warehouse for Africa and Southeast Asia. Let's move on to the world standard: spare parts should be delivered a maximum of a day. If the devices begin to fly, there will be a need for them. So you bought a car, it broke down and is worth it. Take the second time the same? No.
— Before your appointment to Russian Helicopters, there were announcements about the construction of a new final assembly shop at Kazan Helicopters. There is an opinion that the workshop is not needed - the current one is enough.
- I went to this shop yesterday especially. We need to make the right management decision. In the first place - production and providing people with wages. With the rest, you can wait 2-3 years. Yes, I instructed to prepare a project, but to say today that we will run to build a shop...
What is better - a shop or buy equipment worth 8 billion? Of course, the equipment. I found money. State. Now you write this - and mediators will immediately fuss around the plant, like ants. I declare: we will not give this order to anyone, it will be carried out by a large group with the participation of special bodies, so that we see transparency and timeliness.
Be that as it may, a new final assembly shop is needed. It's not even that the current one is old (built in 1953): the construction of a new building will make it possible to implement a modern production system for Ansat, Mi-8/17 and Mi-38. It will be an in-line production method on three main lines. The product moves through the assembly areas, and on each of them the corresponding assembly operations are performed. It's productivity and quality. And today we have a guard assembly method, when the helicopter is assembled at the same site with a change of assembly teams depending on the operation being performed. The new production chain includes the ability to quickly restructure production - for example, in the event of a large number of orders for the Ansat helicopter and a decrease in those for the Mi-8/17.
- It is known about the large debts of Kazan Helicopter Plant - more than 30 billion. There was talk of a possible partial write-off. Is this issue being resolved?
— In 2019, a plan for the financial recovery of Kazan Helicopter Plant was approved, which involves refinancing loans through concessional loans, the sale of non-core assets, as well as measures to optimize receivables. All these measures have reduced the volume of problem debt to 13.5 billion rubles. However, the plant will never give them away. This is a black hole. My task is to close it as quickly as possible.
“Well, how is it possible to produce a new helicopter without air conditioning ?!”
- Recently, in the messages about the Kazan Helicopter Plant, phrases about updating the model range have slipped through. What helicopters are we talking about?
— This is also the development of Ansat. For example, the next step is new blades that will increase the maximum takeoff weight. We continue to work on children's diseases Mi-38. The plan is to install new digital flight and navigation equipment on the Mi-17.
- This is all clear, but it is new cars that are of interest ...
- I will not reveal the secret yet.
- Recently, Kazan Helicopter Plant presented the Mi-8MTV-5M developed on its own initiative. Is there a future for this topic?
- Certainly. We are ready to bring combat helicopters of the VKS to this level, and to supply new ones - we are working on including the Mi-8MTV-5M in the program for equipping the Aerospace Forces. We also offer it for export.
- Being in Kazan last summer, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Kazan Helicopter Plant has the prospect of mass orders from the military. Are such orders desirable for the plant or not? The low profitability of contracts with the Ministry of Defense is known.
- The state defense order is not discussed at all. For all structures of Rostec, this has always been, is and will be a top priority. Yes, pricing under the State Defense Order is regulated, but it still ensures that contracts break even, so we are interested in long-term orders from the Ministry of Defense and other law enforcement agencies - this is a uniform loading of the plant. Today, the state armament program - 2033 is being worked out, and the need for Kazan vehicles is great there.
- Does the Mi-38 have the prospect of commercial, including export sales?
- Undoubtedly. A very promising car. Today we have firm contracts for 25 helicopters until 2024, including for foreign operators.
- Mi-171A3 - a competitor to the Mi-38?
- This is a completely different car - for the north, the Arctic. Given the purpose of creation, it cannot be called a direct competitor to the Mi-38.
- At what stage is the creation of the Russian engine for Ansat? Are you sure they will make it?
- UEC-Klimov, which, like us, is part of Rostec, is developing the VK-650V engine for the Ka-226. To install it on the Ansat, minor changes in the layout will be required, and we are working with the UEC on the possibility of creating such a modification. I have no doubt that this is a challenging task.
“KVZ economy is getting quite good”
— How many helicopters does Kazan Helicopter Plant plan to hand over to customers in 2022?
- It is planned to transfer 111 helicopters for 10 customers: 58 Mi-8/17, 41 Ansat and 12 Mi-38. Most of it will go to the domestic market. With access to such a number of helicopters, the economy of the Kazan Helicopter Plant becomes quite good - you must admit, there is a difference with 2021: there were only 55 helicopters!
- So they will say that before Belykh was dragging everything to Ulan-Ude, and now Kolesov - to Kazan ...
- The plan for the entire holding is 311 helicopters. Arseniev - 20, Kumertau - 10, Rostov - 60. They always worked within these limits. For Kazan and Ulan-Ude, historically common numbers are also 111 and 110. Therefore, there can be no such reflections. I'm all right.
- For Ansat, this is the first time such a large annual plan. Will they pull the plant down, because they say that Kazan Helicopter Plant sells these helicopters almost at cost?
- For the commercial market, including for export, Ansats are sold at prices that ensure not only the coverage of all costs for their production, but also a sufficient net profit. Under state programs for the development of air ambulance, we deliver at the lowest prices, but they still provide marginal profitability, which makes it possible to cover direct production costs and part of the overhead costs of the enterprise.
— Is the Kazan plant capable of producing 111 helicopters?
— I have been studying Kazan for almost two months, for a couple of hours every day. The situation is really difficult, the plant is far from its peak form.
Under Alexander Lavrentiev (headed Kazan Helicopter Plant in 1984-2007 - ed. note), there was a production schedule, when there is absolute clarity and understanding of who and what provides: materials, components, orders. But it has been gone for many years. We must return. There should not be situations when they start manufacturing fuselages and suddenly get up due to the lack of certain components. Now we are restoring everything.
We look at all the changes. Today they tell me: “Let's restore the foundry, which was liquidated,” and as a result we found ourselves in a bad situation when we order castings from the side and it turns out 3-4 times more expensive. It's workers' money!
“I have always had an even, good relationship with Rustam Nurgalievich, today I said:“ No help is needed yet ”
- Are there enough workers? They say that you have begun to return specialists who left the Kazan Helicopter Plant. How many agree to return?
- The new volume of loading of the enterprise, of course, will require an increase in the number of personnel.
We need 303 more basic production workers. Since January 10, 46 people have been recruited, 74 more are at different stages of employment, plus 135 are undergoing training, in February-March they will receive ranks and start working. By the way, the salary during study is up to 35 thousand rubles.
Of course, qualified personnel are required, and today 15 such workers have returned. We asked them to come to their own factory. They explained that the download would be stable. Helicopters were sold three years ahead - 111, 120, 125 aircraft. We are fully provided with work.
- So you don't need high-ranking pushers anymore? For example, the president of Tatarstan regularly attached several helicopters…
— I have always had even, good relations with Rustam Nurgalievich, today I said: “No help is needed yet.” And so he went forward - he reduced the land tax for Kazan Helicopter Plant: from 105 million to 25 million rubles. This is real partnership.
— What is the most demanded working specialty in the helicopter industry?
— Riveter. In 2021, 364 people left for the Kazan Aviation Plant. But here we went one more way - we buy five riveting machines. Yes, they cost 250 million rubles each and will arrive only in September, but I mean that we will definitely resolve this issue.
- Did you return any of the leading employees?
- For example, Nikolai Gordeev. Once he was the head of the machining production, today he is the first deputy director.
- Were there other candidates for the post of director of Kazan Helicopter Plant, besides Ginsburg?
— Today, it is very difficult to find a plant manager. We considered three candidates and, I am sure, made the right choice.
Vladimir Ginsburg is a production worker to the marrow of his bones, a very strong leader. Most importantly, we put a leader. He must help me assemble a strong team so that the plant will work as it should.
- You promised to raise salaries at Kazan Helicopter Plant ...
- We increased the cost of a standard hour: for "wreckers" - by 30 percent, for the rest of the main production workers and auxiliary workers of the production unit - by 20 percent. People will receive a new salary in February. Now qualified workers can earn up to 100 thousand rubles at Kazan Helicopter Plant - good money at the regional level. Non-residents are provided with compensation for renting housing - 10 thousand rubles for the first 6 months ... On December 25, the last car should fly to the consumer, and for this we will pay everyone an additional average monthly salary: people must understand that we will do everything so that they can build helicopters. Although, of course, we will be interested not only in salary, but also in serious tasks, the possibility of intellectual and career development.