Russia Relaunches Series Production of Tupolev Tu-214

 - April 20, 2022, 2:29 PM
A Tupolev Tu-214CR in the colors of Russia's Presidential Air Detachment takes off from KAPO's factory aerodrome in Kazan. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russian industry plans to begin delivering all-new Tupolev-214 narrowbody airliners in 2024 and ship a total of 70 of the twin-engine aircraft within six years, according to Russia’s Rostec state corporation, which controls all aircraft manufacturing companies in the country. Work has already started at the Kazan Aviation Production Association (KAPO) on an initial batch of 20 airframes. Future plans call for KAPO to produce the type at an annual rate of ten aircraft.

Russian engineers designed the Tu-214 as a heavier, longer-range modification of the initial Tu-204, which flew for the first time in 1989. The much-improved Tu-214 followed in 1996 and won local type certification in December 2000. The airplane can carry 212 passengers in a single-class, 32-inch-pitch cabin layout, 2,590 nm in the standard factory configuration, which also holds two galleys and three lavatories. A configuration featuring a two-class cabin carrying 150 passengers can fly to a range of 3,720 nm.

Two plants—in Ulyanovsk and Kazan—assembled 22 Tu-204/214s in the last century and 64 more since 2000. Since 2014, the manufacturers completed only ten new airplanes, the last of which KAPO delivered in 2020. The Russian defense ministry ordered all of them, including the Tu-214SR command-and-control variant, Tu-214R radar reconnaissance version, and Tu-214ON “Open Sky” iterations.

The decision to relaunch the Tu-214 series production came after the U.S. and EU stopped all new deliveries of aircraft and components to Russia. “Shortly after the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine, the West discontinued shipments of avionics and aero-engines for our newest aircraft types,” deputy chairman of the Russian government Yuri Borisov told Russian journalists on April 19.  “As a result, we need to speed up efforts on import substitution, so as to produce key vendor items locally.”

Today, the Tu-214 is the only jetliner type that the Russian plants can start manufacturing right away, without any research and development and import substitution effort. In contrast, the newer MC-21 from the same size class and the smaller SSJ100 come with significant foreign content, up to 40- to 50 percent by vendor item count in on-board systems and the interiors. Another option, the Ilyushin-96, is fuel-thirsty and requires a lot of maintenance, making it unpopular with airlines.

The Tu-214 features operational performance comparable to that of the Airbus A321ceo, but it carries a disadvantage on short routes due to its heavier structure. However, it holds a slight advantage on passenger services lasting five to six hours thanks to larger, higher-aspect wings.

For a few years, the Tu-214 operated profitably with Dalavia (Far East Airlines) on the main route from Khabarovsk to Moscow, matching well with the type’s payload-range capability. Aeroflot wet-leased two of the aircraft from the Russian government airline (serving state officials) to fly revenue services from Moscow to New Delhi, but the effort proved short-lived.

It remains unknown which airlines would take the new Tu-214. Likely candidates include Aeroflot, S7, Ural Airlines, and SmartAvia, which together operate about fifty A320neos. Although the Tu-214 is less fuel-efficient, Rostec expects its unit cost to total half that of the Airbus product.