RRJ project takes shape as Sukhoi commits funding

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VLADIMIR KARNOZOV / MOSCOW

Leasing deal in place as manufacturer names partners and aims for first flight in 2006

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft and Finance-Leasing (FLK) have signed a preliminary agreement under which the leasing company will pay a deposit to cement its commitment to the Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) project.

The agreement calls for a firm contract to be signed by April 2004 under which FLK will buy 30 RRJs for subsequent lease to Russian airlines. The two companies have established a joint group to review the RRJ design and prepare to provide after-sales support.

Sukhoi has also created joint working groups with Aeroflot and KrasAir to complete the RRJ critical design review and adapt the aircraft to meet the airlines' needs.

The groups are to complete reports by mid-November on configuration, flight performance, operational economics and after-sales support. November is also targeted by Sukhoi for the preliminary design review. First flight is confirmed for early 2006.

Sukhoi has selected Russian firms Aviapribor-Holding, Gidromash, Salyut, SPM-Aero, NPP Zvezda, Respirator, Elektropribor, Voskhod and Teploobmennik as RRJ risk-sharing partners. It has also named Rockwell Collins, Thales, Liebherr, Honeywell, Hamilton Sundstrand, Messier Dowty, Intertechnique, Pall, Parker, Air Cruiser and ECE Zodiac as partners.

Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan says the company is yet to decide which avionics items will be supplied by Rockwell Collins and which by Thales.

Sukhoi says it has held talks with Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, Delta, Lufthansa and Regional on the RRJ. Sukhoi Civil Aircraft general director Andrei Ilyin says the airlines are to review the project.

Boeing president for Russia Sergei Kravchenko says the US manufacturer will support the RRJ project using its international sales and support network, and help with certification to US Federal Aviation Administration and European Joint Aviation Authorities standards. The network will include East Line's Russian Technique maintenance centre at Moscow Domodedovo.

Last month Boeing appointed William Jarrell as director for the RRJ project.