President Boris Yeltsin told the Russian people last week that there were "more problems than successes" in Russia’s civil aviation, and that the country could not exist "without a developed and reliable civil aviation." Yeltsin had just visited the international aerospace show held near Moscow, where there was a strong representation of Western companies vying to provide Russia with the modern airliners it sorely needs to reequip its aging civil fleet. Europe’s Airbus consortium — which has already sold Aeroflot a number of Airbus 310s — was showing off for the first time its A-319 medium-haul airliner, while Boeing displayed the newest version of its similar 737.
Although Russian airframe designs can compete with any in the world, the same cannot be said for the Russian jet engine and avionics that equip them. As a consequence Russian manufacturers are turning to Western suppliers for these products. The IL-96M, which is soon to enter into serial production, is powered by American Pratt and Whitney engines, while the new Tu-204 uses British Rolls-Royce engines. These modifications will make the planes more expensive and could put them out of reach of most Russian airlines. Yeltsin noted that the breakup of Aeroflot’s Soviet monopoly had resulted in a plethora — more than 300 — of small air companies, and he warned that "small companies have small opportunities." He said that the government was looking for ways to solve Russia’s air transport problems. (Russian and Western media, August 22-25)
NATO-Sponsored Naval Exercise Underway in Ukraine.