Iran AirTour looks set to be the first operator to fly the A2 version of the Perm PS-90 turbofan, with a firm order through Ilyushin Finance for five Tupolev Tu-204-100 passenger jets for delivery in 2009. The PS-90A2 engine is undergoing bench testing.

The airline's chief executive says it is seeking up to 30 Tu-204s, all with PS-90A2 engines, and is interested in the Ilyushin Il-96, both new and used. However, earlier plans to hire two Il-96-300s from Russian airline KrasAir (Air Union) have not materialised yet.

Iran Airtour says it would rather have Il-96s on short-term operational leases before placing a firm order for newly built aircraft.

"We are also interested in the Superjet 100, but this airplane is unlikely to be available for political reasons. Therefore, we are also considering An-148," he says.

The Tu-204-100 deal was signed at the Russian air show MAKS in the presence of Russian minister for transport Igor Levitin and Iranian minister for roads and transport Mohammad Rahmati, underscoring how serious Russia is about doing successful business with Iran.

Tehran, which spent more than three years negotiating with both Russia and Airbus, had to turn to Russia as it can not purchase new jetliners from the West since late last year, when Europe imposed stricter export regulations following a lack of progress on the nuclear issue.

Levitin has assured his Iranian counterpart that Moscow will further develop its "already very good co-operation" with Iran on air transport.

"We are happy that the Iranian airlines already operate Tupolev and Ilyushin jets, and are looking for expanding the scope of our co-operation. We want to add more airline service between Russian and Iranian destinations, and work together on construction and renovation of airports," he says.

He adds that although Russia needs modern jetliners like the Tu-204 for its own airlines, the Kremlin will do utmost to insure Iran gets these aircraft on schedule.

"We know that the Iranian air transport system feels a shortage of passenger jets and we will do everything in our power to get the newly ordered Tu-204s to Iran on time," Levitin says.

Source: Flight International