On 12 May 2010 the Russian aircraft makers achieved another milestone with the maiden flight of the RA-64517, a new special mission version of the Tupolev Tu-214 narrow body twin jet airliner. This version, designated Tu-214PU (the suffix is acronym from "Control Post" in Russian), has been manufactured under contract with the Special Air Detachment under the Administration of the President of Russian Federation (also referred to as the Moscow branch of GTK "Rossiya", GTK stands for "State Transport Company"). After some thirty to forty test flights in frame of the RA-64517's certification program, the aircraft will enter service and be operated in the interests of the Russian defense ministry.
The contract also calls for delivery, in the second half of 2011, of a second such machine, RA-64520. The latter is now getting ready at the final assemble shop of the Kazan Aviation Production Association named after Sergei Gorbunov (KAPO). Next in the queue are two Tu-214 relay aircraft slotted for delivery next year and a pair of Tu-214ON for the Open Skies program. The latter aircraft is the responsibility of the Vega Concern of Radio Equipment, a specialist in special mission equipment.
The Tu-214 has been selected by Russia's Ministry of Defense and other governmental structures as the basic platform for special mission aircraft. Sadly, the production line at KAPO in its current shape does not allow a high production rate so as to deliver new Tu-214 aircraft to all interested buyers at short notice. So, naturally came an idea, to focus narrowly on governmental orders.
However, after different options had been considered, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) reactivated work with airlines. In particular, the corporation made decision to deliver two more airframes to Transaero.
The decision for continuation of Tu-214 production in the interests of commercial carriers is a very serious one in the given circumstances, when the global economy, including airlines and manufacturers, continue to suffer from the world-wide economic crisis.
In the view of the financial troubles experienced by Finance Leasing, further work with Transaero is likely to be responsibility of Ilyushin Finance Company (IFC). A series of deals on the matter "is being put together", according to IFC. Reports in the Russian media indicated that UAC and IFC are in agreement on how to manage issues with already built and brand new Tu-214s.
Independent analytical institutions assessed that IFC's involvement into the Transaero Tu-214 program may bring it a business in excess of $100 million. IFC involvement shall boost the Tu-214 program as it is meant to bring in more funding to KAPO for expanding its manufacturing capacity. KAPO General Director Vasil Kayumov was quoted as saying that Finance Leasing halted funding the Tu-214 program upon completion of the third Transaero airframe in late 2009. Looking at various contingency measures, KAPO and MoD even considered completing two remaining airframes on the money of the Russian government. In that case the aircraft would instead go to governmental service rather than the airline's.
After a series of consultations, UAC and other interested parties made decision to fulfill the February 2005 contract with Transaero in full, by delivering two remaining airframes on order in 2011-12 timeframe.
Furthermore, IFC General Director Aleksander Rubtsov told reporters that his company "will fund construction of new Tu-214s provided Transaero and other airline customers agree to accept them". "We are considering various options on how to develop and expand our order portfolio", he added.
The Russian government and the government of Tatarstan Republic (KAPO is based in Kazan, the capital of the Republic) are believed to have tentatively agreed to provide a financial aid package in support of the Transaero Tu-214 program at KAPO. The reason behind it is to keep the airline customers happy with Russian-made equipment and help KAPO sustain the crisis without shrinking workforce.
Meanwhile, market interest grows to temporarily grounded Tu- 214s previously operated by DalAvia and KrasAir. Sadly, both airlines went bankrupt in the conditions of the global economic crisis. Dalmashlizing, a company which owns the RA-64502 and the RA-64503 (now standing still in Khabarovsk airport after DalAvia ceased to be), is negotiating with unidentified would-be buyers. Besides, the RA-64508 (ex-KrasAir) is also on sale. A year ago two ex-DalAvia aircraft went to Aerostars airline; it wet-leases them to the Syrian flag-carrier.
That day KAPO delivered two Tu-214SR aircraft, registration RA-64515 and RA-64516, to the Special Air Detachment.
On the same day, both aircraft were ferried to Moscow Vnukovo airport, their main station. On arrival, they were inspected by the chairman of the Russian government Vladimir Putin. Reportedly, he made some remarks about high performance and manufacturing quality of the newly-acquired assets. Putin issued command to continue with purchasing more Tu-214s for governmental structures. The Tu-214SR is meant to replace the morally outdated Il-22 relay aircraft, a special mission airplane using the platform of Il-18 four-engine turboprop airliner.
The Tu-214 is considered for a wide variety of applications: relay aircraft, flying command posts, airborne communications centers, electronic reconnaissance, radio emission analysis, VIP transport, airborne early warning and command, maritime reconnaissance aircraft etc.
The handover ceremony of the RA-64515 and RA-64516, turned into a massive gathering of KAPO employees. A few thousand people - almost all workforce of the enterprise - took part in the event. They were elated by the fact that, after a fifteenyear break, the Russian government restored itself in the status of the main customer for KAPO products.
The ceremony was attended by President and Chairman of the Executive Board of United Aircraft Corporation Alexey Fedorov, Prime Minister of Tatarstan Republic Rustam Minnikhanov (more recently he become President of the Republic), KAPO General Director Vasil Kayumov and Tupolev General Designer Igor Shevchuk. Kayumov and Shevchuk handed over symbolic keys to the aircraft to GTK Rossiya specialists. The key were accepted by Deputy Chief Engineer on new equipment Vladimir Kochegarov and head of special transportation operations department Aleksander Zuev.
Addressing the audience, UAC president said: "Respectable colleagues: workers, engineers and other employees of Kazan aviation production association! We have a great day today. Two beautiful machines, two airplanes are being handed over to our customer.
These aircraft symbolize very intense and hard work of all KAPO employees. These machines are special mission aircraft, they will play an important role in the national defense. They form a first pair in the large series of special purpose aircraft that are being built here. Our customers have been criticizing us for delivery postponements. They were right with the very fact that the delivery date has indeed shifted. But some of their arguments did not have much ground. And now, finally, we reached the point when deliveries are made possible. I am sure these pair will be followed by many more aircraft shortly, as more airframes are being completed here. These new airframes come in different versions. I am sure these new airframes will be completed on time and with high manufacturing quality. Today I want to congratulate most heartedly the team of the Kazan plant and say: well done! I wish you to held ceremonies on new aircraft deliveries as many as possible. Thank you for your hard work!"
Later on, answering journalists' questions, Fedorov said: "the Tu- 214SR is a relay aircraft that is specially designed to carry out very specific missions. Because of this, we cannot tell you in much detail about the exact differences between this new version and the baseline platform being the Tu-214 passenger jet. A few additional nonstandard antennas are visible outwardly. Those antennas reflect the functions that this new version is intended to carry out. The relay aircraft uses the Tu-214 as a platform. The baseline aircraft meets all current international requirements. It can operate from various air strips. The airplane is allowed to fly in airspace of other countries around the globe since it meets their requirements including ecological, to noise levels, emission etc. The new version of the baseline aircraft has won approvals in the form of complimentary certificates in full accordance with the current requirements of aviation authorities.
The airplane has been tested thoroughly, including in extreme conditions, climatic and not only climatic”.
Answering questions on timing of next deliveries, UAC president said: "Several more Tu-214s are in a high degree of readiness. Some of them are in the final assembly shop, others are getting their components mated. Let me stress one more time that this pair of aircraft that we handed over today are the leading machines of the new, large series of aircraft that will come in a number of modifications. Production run of these special mission aircraft will be relatively large.
These aircraft will use the same basic platform, but differ in functions and, hence, in onboard equipment. Outwardly, changes will be few, so that few people would be able to tell one version from another."
Touching on completions of the Tu-214SR cabin, Fedorov said: "the cabin design is very modern, offering high comfort. We have made all we could to ensure comfort conditions for work and rest of the crews who will fly these aircraft and operate their onboard equipment. The customer has put forward very demanding specification for the cabin. I believe we have managed to meet all of the customer requirements."
On the matter of aircraft price, Fedorov conveyed the following information: "I can only say that we sell airlines Tu-214s in baseline pas senger version at sticker price of just above 1 billion rubles (approx. $33 million). The Tu-214SR is, naturally, more costly because of the expensive onboard equipment". It became known in summer 2010 that an improved passenger version of the Tu-214 is offered at $52 million apiece.
Journalists further asked, is there any something special in the Tu- 214SR that is meant to make this version luckier? "There is a whole lot of things that have been implemented into design of this version to achieve highest aviation safety standards", Fedorov answered, and the modern avionics in the first place. All onboard systems and equipment are made inside the country. Our designers have applied their minds in best way to provide multiply backup for all onboard systems so that to ensure the highest level of aviation safety. Earlier, Russia did not produce aircraft that would come any near to the Tu-214SR in terms of mission performance. Aircraft that fulfilled similar missions were in production before, but they are morally and physically outdated today. The Tu-214SR will progressively replace them, brining about a new level of mission and operational performance.
Speaking on behalf of the Tatarstan Republic, Rustam Minnikhanov said: "Today is an important day in the life of Tupolev design house and the Kazan plant. I want to use this occasion to convey my most cordial wishes of prosperity to the team of Tupolev and Kazan plant, so that this pair of the new aircraft gives a head start for a large series of Tu-214s. I wish the aircraft made here will operate successfully for a long time. I hope your team will prove up to the challenges that stand before the Russian aircraft manufacturing industry in the field of civil, military and special mission aviation." Later on, he told the members of the media: "Some of you may think that the Tu- 214SR is the same as the baseline version, yet with some sort of a hat bolted to the upper fuselage. And they are wrong. This new version is a completely different aircraft by way of special missions it is intended to carry out. This machine does carry out all these new functions that were specified by the customer.
As per completions of the cabin, I can tell you: everything is made very nicely. I had a chance to see it with my own eyes when inspected the aircraft, its cockpit and cabin. The new aircraft is not merely a new toy for our customer. It is also the vehicle that brought together many companies and people working on the respective project. We contributed our hearts and mind to this project and become friends when working on this project - Fedorov and myself became friends on this project".
Tupolev General Designer Igor Shevchuk addressed KAPO employees with the following words: "It is a great thing that Tupolev aircraft continue being built and get delivered to their customers. Today, a new pair of these outstanding vehicles is being handed over to the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation. Sincerely, I am very grateful to all of those people who took part in development, construction and testing of these airplanes - workers, engineers, ground and flight crews. I wish these two airplanes will serve successfully for many years, flying high in the peaceful blue skies. Let me remind you that a month ago these airplanes proved their worth in a long-haul mission when they flew thirteen hours non-stop, over the Far East, Extreme North, then Moscow and back to Kazan. That time everything worked well, and according to the specification. That was a result of our hard work. Many thanks to all of you, please accept my cordial wishes of good health and happiness”.
Speaking on behalf of the aircraft operator and customer, Aleksander Zuev said: "Today is indeed a very happy day for all of us, the manufacturers and the customers. Let me remind you that these two beautiful aircraft are made under a governmental order, according to the contract with the Administration of the president of Russian Federation and in the interests of the special air detachment of GTK Rossiya. We have been closely following the work on these aircraft, by paying visits to the final assembly shop and other workshops of the Kazan plant, working hand-in-hand with Tupolev, KAPO and equipment suppliers. We always believed that this order is our small, but very much positive contribution into recovery of our aircraft manufacturing industry, into revival and strengthening of the Kazan aviation plant. It was hard and very intense work.
And here, today, we are very happy to see the work done. We are convinced that the experience obtained during creation of the relay aircraft for the GTK Rossiya special air detachment will help you reduce lead cycles on aircraft that would follow and improve their manufacturing quality. Let us promise each other that the delivery ceremonies such as this one today will become of regular occurrence and a good tradition for KAPO and Administration of the President. I wish you every success. Thank you all for your work!"
Vladimir Kochegarov, GTK Rossiya deputy chief engineer on new equipment told KAPO employees the following words: "Dear colleagues! Today is an important day for the plant, and also for us, the customer that takes delivery of these beautiful airplanes. The airlines have been waiting aircraft such as these for a long time. We all need speedy renewal of our fleets. This pair of new airplanes is just one small step in the right direction.
We put our faith in KAPO, the enterprise with a history of over 70 years, the enterprise that has successfully solved many tasks set by the government and its customers. We remember well how difficult it was to create this new version of the Tu-214 aircraft. Today, on behalf of the intended aircraft operator, the State Transport Company "Rossiya", let me congratulate the whole team of KAPO, from a worker to the General Director, all of you who took part in that work, who contributed heart and mind into creation of these nice airplanes. Nice-looking airplanes fly nicely, that's for sure. Thank you once again". In his turn, KAPO General Director Vasil Kayumov said: "Respectable guests, dear colleagues! That's something we have been striving for three years. We did not always have enough time to rest, we sometimes got nervous and demanded too much from each other.
But this moment, the delivery, has come, finally! The kind words that customers told us today are very much a reward for us. In our turn, we say "thank you" to all people who gathered today here, at KAPO's flight test station, you came to share our feelings of satisfaction. You have been with us in the hard times, and now, when we feel better. Let me assure you, that we will apply all of the experience amassed during creation of these two airplanes so as the follow-on orders will be fulfilled with higher quality and on time. We hope the Russian government will render effective support to the domestic manufacturers and aircraft operators. And we hope that the Tu-334, the new promising design from Tupolev, will enter mass production at our plant!"
In future, the two plants manufacturing Tu-204 series aircraft - Aviastar-SP in Ulianovsk and KAPO - shall cooperate closer on manufacturing of evolved Tu-204 series machines, such as the Tu-204SM. UAC president Alexey Fedorov said: "The Tu-204 series will stay in production for a few more years, until the next-generation narrow body jetliner, the MS-21, gets ready. Today, we are working on a deep modification of the current baseline version that will have improved engines (PS-90A2), auxiliary power unit, onboard systems and a cockpit optimized for two cockpit crew members. The whole of avionics suite will be reworked as one of the measures to reduce operational expenses.
We plan to introduce the Tu-204SM to the market in 2011. I believe we will be able to achieve profitability for the Tu-204 program with help of this new baseline model. Its introduction shall allow improve consumer merits of the aircraft and sell it for a higher price while cutting manufacturing costs."
Introduction of the Tu-204SM will entail a broader industrial cooperation between Aviastar-SP and KAPO. Ulianovsk is likely to focus on manufacture of fuselages, while KAPO will concentrate on production of wing sections. Initial series is to be assembled at Aviastar-SP, that of Tu-204-100SM1 featuring Perm PS-90A2 turbofans. These engines will replace ordinary PS-90As. Experimental examples of the A2 have been tested at Perm Motors and won approval of the aviation authorities. Specification to the Tu-204SM calls for two-deck-crew operations, a new APU and conditioning system and lower weight of wiring. Hydrolic actuators of flaps and leading edges shall be replaced by electrically operated Electroagregat devices.
At Farnborough’2008 UAC and Ilyushin Finance signed a firm order for 31 Tu-204SMs plus 30 options.
The core contract was estimated at $1.5billion by catalogue prices. It is meant to be launch order for the SM version featuring improved Perm PS-90A2 turbofans, better avionics and onboard system. The deal also contained option for 30 more airframes.
Until the Tu-204SM gets available, the Tu-214 will remain the most advanced and competitive Russian jetliner. Preparations to series production of this version began in 1994. First KAPO built Tu-214 had its maiden flight on 21 March 1996. In May 1997 the Tu-204-200 achieved type certification for the all-up weight of 103 tons, same as for the baseline Tu-204-100 launched earlier at Aviastar-SP. Urged by KAPO, Tupolev launched an effort aiming at increasing all-up weight to 111 tons (110.75 tons at liftoff). With that, the structural weight would rise by a fraction, to some 59 tons (empty equipped in the range of 62-63 tons), thus making Tu- 214 the most weight efficient jetliner ever produced in Russia. The principal decision on that issue was made in March 1999. On 15 April 1999 the RA-64501 commenced flight trials to compliance to the AP-25 air worthiness requirements harmonized with FAR Part 25 and JAR 25 (the Tu-204-100 won certification to the NLGS, the Russian national set of rules written in the times of the Soviet Union). For compliance to the new airworthiness standards at all-up weight of 111 tons, a large number of structural members were strengthened, as well as the landing gears and tires. AP-25 type certification for Tu-214 was issued on 29 December 2000.
By May 2007 ten Tu-214s were delivered to airline customers, including three to GTK Rossiya, five to DalAvia (including first deliverable example RA-64502), one to KrasAir (RA-64508) and one to Transaero (RA-64509, in April 2007). In November 2008 Transaero took delivery of RA-64549 (originally, MSN was 64013, but the airline appeared too superstitious to accept "13"). Except for GTK Rossiya, all other deliveries went via Finance Leasing Corporation (FLC). Sadly, the crisis bankrupted DalAvia and KrasAir, and their Tu-214s, along with other items in their fleets, suffered temporary grounding. During that period some aircraft undergone maintenance and upgrade work. The latter helped them find new proprietors and operators.
There are two versions of the cabin available for airlines, for 210 passengers in all-economy configuration and for 164 passengers in typical two-class cabin. In the first case the range is up to 7,200 km. Longer distances are achieved through decrease in payload. The Tu- 214D (engineering reference) with additional fuel tanks can cover over 11,000 km or stay in the air for some 14 hours. Introduction of the NK- 93 geared fan engines promises reduction in specific fuel burn from 18.3 (for the PS-90A powered baseline version) down to 15 gram per km*passenger.
On KAPO production line, the Tu-214 replaced the Il-62, built in 281 copies between 1966 and 1995 (In 2010 one more Il-62M was completed and went to the Ministry of defense). Of those about a hundred were exported. Some of these aircraft were temporarily hired by J apan Air Lines and Air France for trans-Siberian flights. Until March 2007, when Il-96-300 took over in that role, the Il-62M served the flagship and the main type that served the needs of the Russian government. Moving onto more technologically advanced Tupolev twin jet required KAPO to buy considerable amount of advanced manufacturing equipment in the West, including GEMCOR GSKE- 4261 riveting machines (able to work with 30-m-long wing sections).
Other imported items were G-5013T-XX-G86/128 riveting facilitation machine, Deckel DMU 50V metal cutting machine tools and other equipment from Lorenz, Agie and other western makers. Achieving higher productivity is of paramount importance for the whole of the Russian aircraft industry, and KAPO is not an exception.
The current figure of required labor per a Tu-214 stands at 450,000 man hours. Use of modern equipment can half this figure, and thereby make it comparable to that of Airbus in the case of the A321. At entry into service the Tu-214 experienced numerous teething problems. Thanks for the courageous aviators of GTK Rossiya and DalAvia, the first customers for the type, the design has been rectified to such an extent that the best examples now amass over four hundred flying hours a month. Now, with a large state order having been placed on special mission aircraft, the Tu-214 program gets a new lease of life.