Russian aviation officials have placed great hopes on the Tupolev Tu-204 jet airliner to compete on equal terms with the best new American and European planes. The program, however, might be in trouble. An industry source said on February 20 that only one Tu-204 had been built in 1997. Built by Aviastar in Ulyanovsk in what is reported to be the world’s largest aircraft plant, and first flown in 1989, the medium-range twin-engine jet is roughly equivalent to the Boeing 757 and seats 210 people.
Last year, an Egyptian leasing company, Sirocco Aerospace International, announced plans to buy as many as 200 Tu-204s, some of which would be equipped with British-made Rolls Royce engines. The ultimate customer for the first ten aircraft was KrasAir — one of the many regional successors to the Soviet national airline Aeroflot. The February report indicated that KrasAir might be backing out of the deal.
With Russia’s numerous airlines needing to replace their inefficient Soviet-era planes with new equipment, the Tu-204 was seen as one plane that would help preserve this domestic market for Russian aircraft builders. It was also seen as a possible foothold in the highly competitive international airliner market. Other foreign and domestic airlines have expressed some interest in the Tu-204. The industry source indicated, however, that Aviastar would need firm orders quickly if the program were to survive. (Russian media, February 20)
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