Propeller Heads

The weekend’s Blue Bucket Society protests reflect the burgeoning discontent among Moscow’s motorists, or least of those who do not have the pecuniary means to blaze their way through traffic with a glaring migalka.  This article in the Financial Times looks at the next generation of vehicular elitism and the rather literal way in which some of Moscow’s superrich view the economic hierarchy:

High above the traffic on Moscow’s congested MKAD expressway, Mikhail Farikh, a 50-year-old electronics entrepreneur, is doing figure-of-eights and other manoeuvres with his Robinson 44 helicopter as red-faced drivers seethe on the road below.

Two decades of economic growth in Moscow have made the traffic a modern nightmare, yet members of the elite, such as Mr Farikh, have always been able to approach it in a uniquely capitalist spirit.

For the equivalent of $25,000 (€18,950, £16,400), any businessman has for years been able to affix a migalki , or flashing blue siren, to his roof and speed through traffic.

The migalki ‘s growing ubiquity is taking a toll on its usefulness, however. So, in the spirit of one-upmanship that characterises Russia’s super-rich, wealthy businessmen are investing in helicopters, which they view as the migalki of the next generation.

Mr Farikh has built a helipad on his Moscow office building, even if his plan to use his helicopter to commute every day remains thwarted by strict laws forbidding flying over Moscow – a cold war relic. But he is convinced that change is on the way.

“When a person flies he achieves a new level of freedom, a freedom the government doesn’t think our people need,” the businessman said. “The laws will change only because pilots like us are organising pickets and lobbying the government.”

Though the Kremlin no longer has to worry about rogue German pilots touching down in Red Square its picture of modern-day free skies is even more terrifying than the chaos on the ground.

“Our people are simple and very stubborn,” Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, remarked. “As soon as they receive permission, everyone will be flying by broomstick and by saucepan and nothing will be able to be done about it.”

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