Boris Yelizarov, NPO PRIBOR - НПО Прибор
Release Date: 2009-06-26Could you please tell us about NPO Pribor’s history and current activity?
NPO Pribor was formed 10 years ago on the basis of the former demonstration plant Pribor. Since the 60s, the plant had been designing flight information recording systems for aircrafts and helicopters: from small aircrafts to models like Il-86, for example. The Pribor plant used to design for a number of serial manufacturing plants, but in the past 10 years, we have evolved towards manufacturing everything ourselves as it has proved a more profitable way of operating. At the moment, we are developing and manufacturing new recording systems to replace those installed on helicopters and aircrafts currently in operation. We design and produce a whole range of recording systems for a myriad aircraft, from helicopters like K-226 to planes such as the Tu-204.
Are you more focused on avionics for civil or military aviation?
Before, we used to supply our products only for civil aviation, but we are more diversified now as the situation in the sector is not very good… Fortunately for us, military type of aircrafts are also used in civil aviation as well, so in such aircrafts with dual applications like Il-76, Mi-17 and Mi-8 our avionics are used successfully as well.
So, since civil aviation is not in the best shape, the most profitable line of development for our company is the modernization of older avionic systems. Before, polyimide and metal films were widely used as data storage media, whereas now it’s all solid-state media. These days, polyimide or metal films have almost disappeared from production lines. On the other hand, time of recording and volumes, as well as lifetime of solid-state media exceeds those of older types. As I mentioned before, in the past few yeas we have developed a whole range of new recording systems so we can change the older types on any aircraft.
What are your investment needs in R&D to sustain all this activity and development of new products?
We are very active in terms of R&D. At our plant we have a lot more designing engineers, than people working purely on manufacture. And in R&D we annually invest more than 80 million rubles. These are our own investments. Besides, we have several contracts for our design from other companies.
Are you planning to expand the product range to have more possibilities in other markets?
We are constantly doing this. But there are still many types of aircrafts in operation where new recording systems have not been implemented due to the fact that it is rather difficult and a long process to install complex avionics in an aircraft. Those who build aircrafts have to make certain adjustments to our blueprints and then install the system on their aircraft. The process also requires tests, including flight tests, which means there should be a company who is willing to give its aircraft for such purpose. For example, in the case of the Mi-181 helicopter, it took us one and a half years to install a new recording system. As you can see, it is a really long process. Our systems record everything that may happen during a flight and, as you know, aircraft control relies on the quality of the recording; In the event of an emergency, the quality of the recording will be crucial to how precisely the information of the flight can be reconstructed afterwards. In the past 30 years, we have not had one single occasion when the information from our recording systems could not be decoded. Even when an aircraft was totally destroyed, the information would have been saved on the media.
How tough is the competition in Russia among flight information recording systems developers?
There are competitors. As I mentioned before, in the past there was only one design bureau developing blueprints for serial plants. Smolensky Izmeritel plant was producing recording systems based on our layouts. Today, Tarkon plant in Estonia, Electropribor plant in Tambov and Pribor Kursk in the city of Kursk are all still producing recording systems based on our old layouts, old types of systems to which we, being the designers, still supply our support and maintenance. But we don’t give our new systems to them anymore; instead, we produce them ourselves, as during Perestroika times those plants were not investing in our R&D activity. However, some of those plants, Izmeritel and Kursk, have also started to design themselves and now they are our competitors.
So what’s your competitive advantage then?
The advantage is that we’ve been designing the systems for 40 years. And as I said before, we have a full range of systems for small as well as heavy aircrafts, whereas other companies cover only separate items in the whole range of recording systems. Since they started their own development of systems recently, they have concentrated on what can be put onto large-scale production.
Are Russian systems adaptable to international standards?
Yes, of course. We work within international standards. We even used to have a certificate for our products from an international body based in France but that was quite some time ago. However, now it’s too expensive to obtain those certificates. If some day our products are in high demand on the international markets we might get international certificates again. But at the moment, we are concentrated on the domestic market, plus China and India, of course.
Since the markets of India and China are of a great importance for the Russian aviation sector, how do you plan to penetrate them?
Now, we are penetrating those markets together with Russian-made helicopters and aircrafts, but I think that after some time of operation, there will be a need for renovation of avionics and then I think we will be able to make direct supplies.
Are you confident in Pribor’s development in the future?
We have confidence in the future, and if the aviation sector in Russia successfully develops in the future, we will stay in the market and develop alongside the Russian aviation.
Thank you for talking to us!
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