Tupolev moves ahead with Tu-204SM test flight programme

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Tupolev is proceeding with the test flight programme for the Tu-204SM aircraft as work continues to decrease its production and maintenance costs.

The first flying prototype, registration 64150, has performed 17 sorties since 29 December. During one of these flights it was airborne for 4hr 58min, achieving its longest flight to date.

Tupolev says the type's trial campaign has addressed such issues as pitot tube testing at various altitudes, steep turns, go-arounds, automatic approach landing and onboard equipment verification.

A further two prototypes, with the registration numbers 64151 and 64152, are being completed by Ulyanovsk-based airframer Aviastar.

Tupolev and Aviastar, along with key component suppliers, have worked out a schedule for the Tu-204SM certification and serial production programme until 2016.

Tupolev president Alexander Bobryshev says: "The major challenge we're facing is to adjust a new digital flight control system."

Aviastar is looking to produce around 40 Tu-204SMs under a tentative agreement with launch customer Red Wings and leasing company Ilyushin Finance, which have made the deal conditional on lowering aircraft costs.

Ilyushin Finance deputy director Darya Dorenvendt says they have agreed with the manufacturer and suppliers on the scheme to bundle maintenance and lease payments.

"Apart from a pay-for-hour principle, it envisages creating a readily available renewable stock of parts, fewer shop visits and shorter turnaround times," she says.

"This could help slash maintenance costs by a third and reduce overall ownership costs substantially."