British Airways is ready to equip up to 40 Boeing 747-400s with Future Air Navigation System (FANS) avionics to take advantage of new cost-saving routes across Russia - but may walk away from the project if there is no sign of funding for ground infrastructure by the end of this year.

BA projects and strategic development manager Gerry Selves told the conference that the airline had identified potential savings of up to £15 million ($23 million) a year in fuel and engine time, on Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Thailand services, mainly on the west-bound legs. A business case, based on a minimum three-year payback, has also been produced to justify the £500,000 cost of equipping each aircraft with Boeing's FANS-1 package.

"The money is approved, but the project is on hold," says Selves. So far there has been no indication from Russia that it would help with funding or approve the new routes.

BA's frustration is shared by its partners in the FANSTAR (tracks across Russia) project, an informal group, including KLM, Boeing and SITA, which was formed earlier this year to push the issue. The group is to complete a feasibility study by the end of October, although Selves believes that there is little chance of implementation before mid-1999.

The amount of investment required in Russia is relatively small, but airlines are adamant that they will not set the precedent of underwriting infrastructure programmes.

Source: Flight International