Air Transport World

Western experts unimpressed with new Soviet transport; Soviets show An-124 to the West for the first time at Paris; also show desire for western help in developing modern air transport system.

Paris--Soviet Union participation in the Paris air show provides a tantalizing opportunity for western observers to examine aerospace products developed behind the iron curtain. Some shows are better than others. The 36th salon just past was a good one. The Soviets brought their Antonov An-124 heavylift transport for its western debut.

The Soviet Union's offering of the An-124 for western inspection at the Paris salon created as much speculation about Soviets' motives as it did about the level of technology that the giant transport represented. In something of a departure from past practices the Soviets were very amenable to inspections of the An-124 by western aerospace officials. Although ATW did manage to get inside the transport, their attitude toward the press was the same as in the past. Nyet! But the Soviets seemed to go out of their way to encourage visits from western technical people, Americans as well as Europeans.

Officials from most major western engine and airframe manufacturers were given guided tours of the An-124 at Paris. Included were people from Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Airbus Industries, British Aerospace, Boeing and Lockheed who received the tours, discussed the new transport with the Soviets or inspected it on their own. From conversations with these officials ATW learned two things. The An-124 does not appear to be much of a breakthrough or technological advance in air transport. And, the Soviet Union is actively seeking help from the West to upgrade its air transport system.

Airbus Industrie officials reported at Paris that a Soviet delegation visited Toulouse last fall and requested participation in a joint venture with Airbus to develop a new technology wing based on the variable camber design being considered for the Airbus TA9 and TA11 programs. Airbus officials speculated that the Soviets would like to use such a wing on their IL-96 large capacity transport reportedly under development for Aeroflot.

The Soviets also offered to purchase a flight crew training program for Airbus that would include simulators (Aeroflot does not yet have simulators), software and personnel to modernize Aeroflot's pilot training program. Airbus declined the offers, but it is interesting that the Soviets are seeking assistance from the West to upgrade their airline system. …

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