Air Transport World

Russian deals at Farnborough. (former Soviet aircraft with Western engines and instruments featured at air show) (Industry Overview)

CIS airframes with Western engines and cockpit systems contrast dour mood over state of the airline industry

The smallest Farnborough show in several years was saved by the substantial participation of the Russians and the 20 or so airplanes they brought. There was significant discussion of programs involving nations that formerly made up the U.S.S.R., but little else as the rest of the aviation world remains slowed by the continuing worldwide recession. Despite the reduced number of exhibitors, those attending said they were well pleased with the number of visitors to their chalets and stands.

But Airbus, in its typical politically subtle manner, quietly began what may be a major move by broaching the idea that it wants to become an independent company, separate of its owners, able to chart its course with minimal outside influence.

This, along with the desire to publish its own account books and to put to rest its image as a state-supported company, were the prime reasons why Airbus wants to shed the golden chains that have bound it to i founding owners and, in most cases, the nations that own the owners.

The sad state of the world-airline industry was a prime topic of conversation and comment. One of the most telling and to-the-point comments came from GE Aircraft Engines VP and General Manager Brian Rowe when, in his annual candid comment, he said: "Airlines have to sort out what they are about - making money or carrying passengers." Commenting on the present sad airline economic state, he added: "The current storm is, perhaps, the worst we have ever had. "

As said, aerospace products of the Commonwealth of independent States products dominated this year's Farnborough. For airline visitors, the highlight was the first appearance of the Rolls-Royce RB211-535E4-powered Tupolev Tu-204 medium-range twinjet.

The Tu-204 seats 214 in a single-class configuration and is similar in size and mission to the Boeing 757 and the soon-to-be-rolled-out Airbus A321. Initial versions, powered by Russian Soloviev PS-90A high bypass turbofans, have been flying since 1989 and have appeared at Paris shows.

The Russians are hoping to penetrate the export market with the Tu-204 by making it more attractive to prospective customers with the use of Western engines and cockpit systems. The Farnborough appearance of the Tu-204 was the first evidence of progress in this program. The Rolls engines provide substantially more thrust, 43,100 lb., than do the 35,275 lb. Solovievs. But more important, they provide better fuel efficiency and an existing worldwide support system. …

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