ARIA Il-96 order in the balance

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AEROFLOT RUSSIAN International Airlines (ARIA) has signed a contract for the delivery of 20 Ilyushin Il-96 wide-body transports, subject to the approval of a financing package from the US Exim Bank.

The $1.5 billion contract is for ten Il-96T freighters and ten Il-96M passenger aircraft, to be delivered between 1996 and 1999.

US engine supplier Pratt & Whitney says that ARIA has applied to Exim to guarantee the financing of the US content of the aircraft, including PW2000-series engines and Rockwell-Collins avionics. Boeing is lobbying government in an attempt to block the deal.

The engine supplier argues that the aircraft will be used exclusively by ARIA, and mainly in the CIS market. The Russian airline would not be in a position to raise sufficient money to buy equivalent Western aircraft. Even if there were no US content in the Il-96, European companies would be keen to step in, says P&W.

The engine company says that further US engine deliveries to Ilyushin are unlikely, as the company hopes to power future Il-96Ms with an upgraded version of the troubled Aviadvigatel PS-90, to be developed by P&W and the Perm production plant.

P&W says that Dutch leasing company Partenair remains interested in Il-96M acquisitions, but deliveries are unlikely before the turn of the century because of production-output limitations at the Voronezh plant.

The engines to be supplied are the 165kN (37,000lb)-thrust PW2337 engines for the ARIA Il-96Ms, and 180kN-rated PW2340s for the freighters.

ARIA, is to add two more Airbus A310s to its fleet, following an agreement signed with Irkutsk-based Diamond Sakha Airlines. Russian authorities refused to allow Diamond Sakha to operate the aircraft because of extreme local weather conditions - temperatures are known to fall as low as -70°C. The new acquisitions bring ARIA's A310 fleet up to six aircraft.