Russia Maintains Big Plans Despite Last Year’s Failures

 - February 29, 2012, 3:02 PM
Russian airlines withdrew all Ilyushin Il-86s from service last year.

A “Program for Development of the Aircraft Industry by 2025,” drafted by Russia’s Ministry for Industry and Trade, calls for investment of 1.7 trillion roubles ($56 billion) in various national aviation projects.

The program envisions Russian makers capturing 10 percent of the global market by 2025, a goal that would require annual sales of 170 jetliners worth $19 billion. In turn, the nation’s largest aircraft maker, United Aircraft (UAC), aims to control 50 percent of the Russian domestic market for commercial jets by 2025.

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin predicts UAC will produce 491 Sukhoi Superjet 100s between 2012 and 2020, meaning that type would top Russian commercial aircraft deliveries in the near term. Last year, however, Sukhoi Commercial Aircraft (SCAC) completed only five SSJ100s out of a planned 13. Rogozin is also counting on the MC-21 next-generation single-aisle jetliner, slated to begin certification testing in 2015 or 2016 and enter production in 2020.

But simple calculations cast doubts on the goals of the ministry’s program. UAC plans to produce 20 Superjets this year and 30 next year before reaching full manufacturing capacity of 60 in 2014. Together with the MC-21, annual production of which could conceivably reach 40 in 2020, such output stands to yield UAC only $5 billion annually, or just over a quarter of the revenue required by the program.

Meanwhile, the ministry plans to spend a mere 150 million roubles by 2014 for improvements to the An-148, Il-96, Tu-204 and Be-200 before canceling any further direct financial aid to those programs, raising serious doubts that any of them would contribute much to overall sales.

UAC president Mikhail Pogosyan said his organization plans to increase production by up to 60 percent in 2014, and that last year it built more than 200 aircraft of all classes, of which dedicated passenger and cargo transports accounted for 20 percent. However, according to the official statistics, last year UAC assembled two Tu-214s, two Tu-204-300s, five Superjets, four An-148s and two Be-200s.

Actual deliveries to airlines amounted to two An-148s, bringing the active fleet to eight units, and five SSJ100s, three of which were active as of January. The rest went to government entities.

Officials expect an immediate increase in sales when the single-aisle Tu-204SM completes certification later this year, paving the way for delivery to assumed launch customers VIM-Avia and Red Wings of Russia.  Pogosyan also sees “some other sale opportunities for this model in the Russian domestic market…until the next-generation MC-21 comes into being.”

Russian airlines continue to reduce the number of indigenous designs they operate: in 2009 they were flying 354 domestic-build aircraft with more than 100 seats, but by January this year the number had fallen to 179. The latter figure includes 138 old narrowbodies and 28 modern Tu-204/214s. The 350-seat Il-86 quad-jet was retired last year, leaving Russia with only 13 “home grown” widebodies in the form of the Il-96.

At the same time, the ranks of imported jetliners have grown: Russian airlines operate 198 Boeing and 162 Airbus narrowbodies, along with 70 and 17 widebodies, respectively.