Russian carrier to take eight new foreign aircraft a year to 2006 as it continues to eye indigenous types

Russian flag carrier Aeroflot will decide between Airbus and Boeing fleet-renewal proposals in mid-June, according to the airline's first deputy general director Aleksandr Zurabov. Senior airline sources, however, say that it has already decided to pursue an Airbus solution and has issued a request for proposals to the European manufacturer and lessors for 11 A330/A340 and 16 A320 family aircraft.

A Boeing team, in Moscow last week as part of US President George Bush's visit to the country, was expected to make a final case for a Boeing purchase, the sources say.

Aeroflot can only fly 27 foreign aircraft and Zurabov says the airline wants to receive eight new aircraft a year between 2003 and 2006 to allow the 27 foreign aircraft to be "rationalised within three to four years". The goal is to cut the number of aircraft types, he says. The new aircraft are expected to replace 11 ageing Airbus A310s and possibly 10 Boeing 737-400s.

Zurabov says the airline is evaluating the A319/A320 and Boeing 737-700/800 for European routes. Although Aeroflot already operates 737s, some Russian provincial airports do not have strong enough runways and taxiways to take the Next Generation 737s.

Meanwhile, Aeroflot remains interested in the Ilyushin Il-96, "but the issue hinges on the ability of the Ilyushin-Finance leasing company to achieve the required capitalisation", Zurabov says.

Aeroflot is also interested in the proposed Sukhoi/Ilyushin/Boeing Russian Regional Jet as a replacement for the long-serving 76-seat Tupolev Tu-134, with the airline requiring 30 aircraft. "We will take that many if the aircraft performs to expectations, and is available no later than 2006," he says.

The Tupolev Tu-334 is also being eyed. "We have not yet estimated the Tu-334's economics on our network because of a lack of good data from the manufacturers. Information on the aircraft we have indicates problems because of extensive reliance on 1970s' systems and avionics," says Zurabov.

Source: Flight International