Russian authorities demand action over Tu-204 reliability

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Russian aviation regulators are hinting at grounding Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft unless the manufacturer improves the type's technical support and operational reliability.

Citing an in-house centre for the air transport safety, oversight authority Rosaviatsia says there were 25 incidents caused by various technical malfunctions on Tu-204s in service with domestic carriers last year.

Thirty percent of cases related to the Aviadvigatel PS-90A engines which power the twin-jets, another 30% to air conditioning systems, and 20% to interior movable surfaces such as doors and hatches.

In a letter to United Aircraft Corporation president Alexey Fyodorov, Rosaviatsia chief Gennady Kurzenkov says this data testifies to serious problems encountered by Tu-204 users.

Since 1989 Russian airframers Aviastar and KAPO have built 60 Tu-204/214s, of which 23 are in commercial service with five domestic airlines. The largest users are Red Wings and Vladivostok Avia, operating nine and six respectively.

Red Wings says it has had 10 incidents involving engine problems on newly-received Tu-204s over the past two years and five aircraft spent a total of 246 days under repair at Aviastar in the first eight months of 2009.

One of Vladivostok-Avia's Tu-204-300s yesterday made an emergency landing at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport following the failure in its starboard powerplant.

Transaero, which uses the Tu-214 variant, has previously criticised availability of support for the type.

While not citing specific carriers, Kurzenkov says the airframers provide a "low level" of after-sales support for these aircraft.

He highlights repair teams' not including service representatives of major system suppliers, delays in preparation of troubleshooting bulletins, and failure of kits to stock commonly-used parts.

Kurzenkov says the current system of after-sales support for Tupolev aircraft "discredits the domestic aircraft industry and civil aviation, dents their image in the eyes of potential customers and inflicts significant economic losses on the state".

He has requested that UAC remedy the situation, adding that it compels the regulator to consider suspending Tu-204/214s from flights until their reliability is ensured.

Sources familiar with the situation state that UAC has not yet responded formally to Rosaviatsia. But a spokesman for the company says: "It all smacks of a PR campaign launched by some of our customers in order to return these aircraft at minimal financial costs to themselves."