IFC Keeps Faith In CSeries
Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC), Russia’s largest aircraft lessor, says it has lined up various prospective customers to discuss deals for Bombardier CSeries and Sukhoi Superjet aircraft. “We come here to see our airline customers in the first place. Meetings at the show have been arranged with twelve carriers interested in the CSeries and five ones considering the Superjet,” said IFC general manager Alexander Roubtsov. “Besides, we will host a number of events devoted to the Q series and the MC-21. Talking to banks is also important. In addition, we see aircraft manufacturers and engine makers from ODK and Pratt & Whitney.”
The lessor remains profitable after generating a surplus of 206 million rubles ($6.1 million) in 2013. “The past year was not bad for us despite all complexities,” Roubtsov commented. IFC is implementing a newly adopted strategy, with the emphasis on modern aircraft types: the Antonov An-148/158, Bombardier CSeries, Irkut MC-21 and Sukhoi Superjet 100. Most of the older aircraft types in the lessor’s portfolio will be sold. “We have been very busy recently with remarketing [older types of] aircraft in our portfolio,” AIN was told.
IFC’s Il-96-400T widebody freighters, previously operated by airline Polyet, are prepared for conversion from the factory’s configuration into a multirole aircraft version. These are to be employed by Russian governmental structures. One Ilyushin four-engined aircraft from IFC’s fleet has been already contracted and two more are in the process of being contracted. Aeroflot and IFC have agreed on the transfer of two used Il-96-300s previously operated by the Russian flag-carrier as part of the broader agreement regarding the issue of Vladivostok Avia. The latter operated six Tu-204-300 twinjets on lease from IFC before becoming part of Aeroflot.
“The agreement has been approved by shareholders of Aeroflot and our company. I hope to finalize the deal shortly,” Roubtsov said. After overhaul and mid-life modernization the Ilyushins will go to an airline already operating the type. Meanwhile, IFC is selling Tu-204-300s formerly operated by Vladivostok Avia to Russian industrial giants and governmental bodies. The first pair is to be handed over to a public sector company. “Another couple is being negotiated on. The two remaining aircraft shall also be sold out,” according to Roubtsov.
Work on placing the CSeries on order involves ongoing negotiations with a dozen of potential airline customers from Europe, Africa and Asia. “Right now we are in negotiations with Bombardier to clarify the delivery dates. In this context we are also correcting terms of the core deal so as to take account of the delays with aircraft readiness.” Addressing the recent mishap (fire broke out after oil supply lines had leaked) with a semi-experimental PW1500G on a CSeries flight test vehicle, Roubtsov hopes that the investigation will not lead to major changes to the engine’s main parts. “I think this mishap would bring about some more postponements with aircraft deliveries. At this point of time it is difficult to predict the exact timing. I believe the postponement would be limited to several months.”
Work on the MC-21 focuses on detailing agreements with the manufacturer and meetings with airlines interested in accepting the type on lease terms. “We need to shape properly customer support programs that would address all the issues to do with entry-into-service, and rendering airline operators all necessary support they need from the manufacturers, engine makers in the first place. There are some issues still remaining with Pratt & Whitney,” Roubtsov said. These issues relate to the power-by-hour program. “Much work is still ahead of us in that area. We are not happy with everything on price formation and the volume of support promised. Having said that, I remain optimistic about a mutually acceptable solution to be found at the negotiation table.”
Although IFC has selected the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G as the primary powerplant for its MC-21s, the lessor is keeping an eye on the alternative power plant, the PD-14 from ODK, Russia’s United Engine Corporation. The advance payments the lessor previously made in the course of the PS-90A2 motor program are to be partly channeled for the PD-14. “We have decided to use those as the first payment for the newer engines,” Roubtsov said.
At the same time, IFC is urging Irkut to speed up development of the MC-21-400, seating up to 240-250 passengers, and ODK to develop 16 metric ton engine for the aircraft. “There are no next-gen aircraft in this niche. If Irkut develops one, it may become a very interesting asset. Solvent demand comes from airlines serving tourist and low-cost routes. That’s why IFC is interested in such an airplane. I am talking of a possible Boeing 757-300 replacement.”
The Bombardier Q400 twin-turboprop is still being considered for license assembly in Russia by the industrial giant Rostec. Local lessors IFC and Avia Capital Service have indicated their intention to order some aircraft, but final agreement is still some way off as the sides is yet to agree on price. “We are searching for some compromise solutions that would be acceptable for us and Bombardier,” Roubtsov said.
IFC is ready to place an order for the newly-certified Tu-204SM in case the Russian government approves of setting up a special airline to serve the air routes between Crimea and mainland Russia. “The Tu-204 is an ideal aircraft to serve the routes to the tourist destinations on the Black Sea coast,” Roubtsov said. The lessor has previously placed about twenty Tu-204/214 family twinjets with Transaero, Red Wings, Cubana and other airlines.
The An-148/158 remains a core asset for IFC. Rossiya, Angara and Cubana operate a dozen of the aircraft on financial leases. “The pilots are in raptures about the airplane, they find the type pilot-friendly and reliable in operation. I believe the number of Antonov regional jets in our fleet will continue to grow,” Roubtsov said.
At last year’s Paris Air Show at Le Bourget the lessor signed for twenty Superjets. “The core contract is signed, but we are yet to complete all the necessary documents to do with manufacturer’s guarantees and aftersales support. These proved difficult to finalize, but we hope to complete the process during Farnborough 2014.”