Which plane will Putin fly now?

The Interstate Aviation Committee issued a statement that the only "operational" Russian mid-range Tu-204 may be rendered out of commission due to a defect in the design of the stabilizer. However, experts interviewed by Pravda.Ru claim that it is too early to panic, because the issue with the Tu-204 is very ambiguous.

According to experts, at this time the IAC statement should be read as a recommendation or a reason for the designers to do some additional work.  

From the onset of mass production, 76 units of Tu-204 aircraft of various modifications were produced. As of January 2014 there were 47 operating aircraft Tu-204 (this is according to official figures that tend to get outdated and are not timely updated). In terms of the scale of Russian aviation this is not much.

The Tu-204 is a Russian medium-range passenger aircraft that has been serially produced since 1990. Its main operators in Russia, again according to official figures, are "Red Wings Airlines" (eight aircraft), "Vladivostok Avia" (six aircraft) and a special presidential aircraft division "Russia" (12 aircraft). That is, the Tu-204 and its modifications are mainly used by the President's administration.

 It is the lack of mass production (that would make operation of the aircraft cost-effective) and high-quality after-sales service that makes Tu-204 not in demand by commercial airlines. Its last modified Tu-204SM may well be a competition to the worldwide bestsellers "Airbus -A320" and "Boeing-737" in terms of reliability and efficiency.

The disturbing statement by IAC is unlikely to greatly affect the flight schedule in civil aviation, RG reported. Although IAC is already taking the necessary steps in connection with the appeals of Rosaviation and Rostransnadzor about a defect of the primary structure of Tu -204 stabilizer in a number of Russian and foreign airlines

"IAC is considering the feasibility of the certificate suspension for production of these aircraft," said the agency. In addition, IAC sent to the United Aircraft Corporation information about the problems associated safety of aircraft RRJ-95B (also known under the brand name "Sukhoi Superjet 100").

These are not the first problems of the Tu -204. To date, these aircraft have been involved in at least two major air accidents. In March of 2010, an airliner of this project made ​​an emergency landing near the Domodedovo airport. In December of 2012 the Tu-204 during landing skidded off the runway of Vnukovo Airport, struck the fence and broke into three pieces. As a result of the second accident, five (according to other sources - four) people died. There were other "lighter" incidents without casualties. On December 21, 2012 at Tolmachevo airport in Novosibirsk after Tu 204 chassis touched runway, the brake system did not activate.

Incidentally, specialists have been waiting to see how the situation with the certificate of this model of airplane would develop since it became clear that the aforementioned hard landing at Vnukovo was associated with the design of the aircraft (reverse system failure).   While even a very loud statement by IAC is not a government decision and not even a formal decision of Rosaviation, some serious measures against the Tu-204 may still follow.

But if such decision (in particular relating to the restriction of flights of these planes) follows, Tu-204 will not have any Russian analogues remaining. We will have to fly medium distance on foreign aircraft, for example, "Boeing" that is already prevalent in the Russian fleet.

 "It is very interesting that a defect in the power structure of the stabilizer mentioned in the statement of IAC was revealed only after 20-odd years since the beginning of the production and operation of the Tu-204," shared with Pravda.Ru Vasily Potemkin, an honorary pilot of Civil Aviation of Russia. "I think that earlier such defect (if it can really be considered a defect endangering passengers and the crew) could not be identified because the appropriate equipment simply did not exist in nature.

Variations and modifications of the Tu-204 have received over 50 Russian and international certificates. Initially, Tu-204 have been meeting all of the requirements for many years. Aircraft of Tu-204/214 family meet all modern requirements for safety, noise level and emission of harmful substances. In service the Tu-204 still meets the requirements of ICAO and Eurocontrol for vertical separation and navigation accuracy, and is permitted to fly in the EU countries without limitation, as well as operate regular flights around the world, including North and South America.

The incidents with the Tu -204 have nothing to do with the defects in the design of stabilizers. Nearly everywhere, at Vnukovo and Tolmachiovo, there were apparently defects in engines when they switched to reverse. The engines of many Tu-204 built in recent years are of foreign manufacturing. So IAC, and Rosaviation and other responsible agencies have to investigate. Journalists should not take the bait right away."

And finally, a little background information. The Tu-204 is a Soviet / Russian medium-haul passenger aircraft developed in the late 1980s - early 1990s to replace the Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft. It has been produced since 1990 at the "Aviastar-SP" in Ulyanovsk, and since 1996 in Kazan (modification of the Tu -214).

Incidentally, the Tu-204 is one of the few passenger planes that have confirmed the ability to safely complete the flight with inoperative engines. On January 14, 2002, a Tu-204 aircraft travelling from Frankfurt to Novosibirsk operated in adverse weather conditions and depleted all the fuel 17  kilometers away from the airport in Omsk, and made ​​a successful landing with two inoperative engines. During landing no one was injured, and the aircraft was soon back in operation.

Andrey Mikhailov


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov