Westinghouse project stalled by Soviet upheaval

December 14, 1991|By Ted Shelsby x

The political and economic chaos in the Soviet Union is causing some problems for an international business group headed by the local Westinghouse division that is involved in a $10 billion program to upgrade the Soviet commercial air traffic management system.

But the project is expected to move forward eventually, a spokesman for the consortium said yesterday.

Jack Tymann, vice president and general manager of Westinghouse Electronic Systems Co., said the project may be on the shelf until the political situation in the Soviet Union becomes more stable.

"But the vision is still there," he added.

Mr. Tymann said there is a tremendous need to open vast regions of the Soviet Union to international air flights. He said this is something desired not only by the various Soviet republics but also by other countries in the world.

Flights between New York and Tokyo, he pointed out, could cut 30 percent from their distance by flying over the Soviet Union, instead of the current Mediterranean route.

The new air traffic control system also would open vast regions of Soviet airspace to commercial traffic for the first time.

In addition to the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group, based in Linthicum, other partners in the joint venture include American Telephone & Telegraph Co., International Business Machines Corp., Deutsche Aerospace of Germany and Itoh, a Japanese company.

These companies and the Soviet Union's Ministry of Civil Aviation formed a company called Global Air Transportation Systems and Services, or GATSS. Mr. Tymann is a co-director of the joint venture, which has its headquarters in Linthicum.

William Pratner, a spokesman for IBM, said that some of the company's employees have recently returned from meetings in the Soviet Union. "We're still hopeful," he said, "but right now we are in a wait-and-see mode."

The Westinghouse unit is not the only Maryland company that has been hurt by the upheaval in the Soviet Union, which has resulted in the closing of many airports because of a lack of jet fuel.

Thomas Henry, an official with the International Division of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, said the political and economic climate has nixed a couple of business deals involving local companies in recent weeks.

He cited the case of International Market Consortium, a local trading company that was bidding on a $60 million shipment of sugar to Moscow.

He said the Moscow City Council had voted to approve the deal, but the shipment was canceled when the central bank tied up the government agency's money.

Mr. Henry said that Babcock International Inc. in Columbia had a project in St. Petersburg "but recently pulled out until things settle down over there."

Based on his telephone conversation yesterday afternoon with a friend in Moscow, Mr. Henry concluded that "all economic activity has come to a grinding halt."

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