Following the visit of Chinese leader Jiang Zemin to Moscow last month, China's main directorate of civil aviation signed a letter of intent for five Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Tu-204-120s for delivery in 2002 and 2003, comprising three passenger variants and two freighters. A further five options could also be involved in the deal.

Similar in specification to the four aircraft operated by Egypt's Air Cairo, the Tu-204s will be supplied by the Aviastar factory in Ulyanovsk. Oleg Alasheyev, deputy general designer at Tupolev responsible for foreign programmes, says China's decision to acquire Russian airliners was made at the highest political level following the spy aircraft incident with the US Navy.

Alasheyev says a Libyan delegation recently visited the design bureau to discuss purchase of four Tu-204s. Liege, Belgium-based express package operator TNT, which has been operating one wet-leased PS-90A-powered Tu-204 freighter for over a year, has expressed an intention to take two more aircraft.

Source: Flight International