Government delegation in Russia to sign deal for two convertible widebodies that can also carry scheduled passengers

Cuban president Fidel Castro has sent a government delegation to Moscow to sign a contract for two Ilyushin Il-96-300M widebody airliners that will be used for VIP operations and scheduled passenger transport with national carrier Cubana. If the deal is signed as expected in the next quarter, the first Il-96-300M could be handed over as early as mid-2005.

The aircraft will replace the current ageing presidential Il-62M. Negotiations began after Russian aircraft leasing company Ilyushin-Finance unveiled a VIP version of the aircraft at an air show in Domodedovo, Moscow in 2002. Cuba is seeking to acquire the aircraft from the VASO plant in Voronezh, provided the aircraft is sold on financial lease terms. Ilyushin-Finance general director Aleksander Rubtsov says the contract is valued at around $100 million, including the convertible interior - designed by Ilyushin and VASO to accommodate VIPs in one configuration and airline passengers in another. Conversion time is set at about 3h.

The Il-96-300M, the designation given by Ilyushin to Cuba's customised type, is based on the Il-96-300 developed for Russian flag carrier Aeroflot. The Russian government has agreed to arrange the latest deal for Cuba and Russia's ministry of finance is poised to provide a credit guarantee. Cuba is believed to have been asked to prepay 25% of the purchase price, with the remaining instalments to be covered by Russian banks.


Source: Flight International