Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

NEW CRACKS have appeared in the Bravia consortium, set up to sell Rolls-Royce re-engine Tupolev Tu-204 twinjets, with the Flemings banking group expected to make a final decision, over its involvement in the programme within weeks.

The problems, centre on disputes over funding and certification delays, which have dogged the relationship between Fleming Russian Investment (FRIC) and its two Russian Bravia partners, the Tupolev design bureau and the Aviastar production plant at Ulyanosk.

The original plan was to have the Russian version of the aircraft certificated during 1992 with Aviadvigatel PS-90A engines, to be followed by a Westernised version with Rolls-Royce RB.211-535 turbofans. Russian certification of the PS-90A-powered 204 was achieved only at the end of 1994, however.

"Our business plan was that the Tu-204 would be certificated by the end of 1992 and that we could start working on the Rolls-Royce version soon after. We invested in the belief that certification was imminent, but it was not," says Mark Jarvis, who heads FRIC in Moscow. He admits that funding for the programme has been halted for at least the past six months and there is little or no commercial activity on the programme.

The Russian partners have made increasingly acrimonious complaints over the lack of funding and support, which they believe should have been provided by FRIC. Tupolev and Aviastar remain confident that the certification of the Bravia aircraft will take place, but remain critical of FRIC. Aviastar says that the company does not see "much further business with Flemings", but adds that "...relations between Aviastar and Rolls-Royce are developing and improving".

R-R, which is not an official consortium partner, also says that it will stay with the programme. "We're continuing to support the flight test programme and anticipate certification this year 1995," the company says.

A launch customer has yet to be found for the Bravia aircraft, despite a build-up of orders for the Russian version. The most likely prospects come from within the Russian airline industry, provided it can resolve present funding difficulties.

There has been speculation that Aeroflot is considering the Bravia Tu-204 as an option, but it could opt to lease Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s instead. Certification in the West is anyway likely to take at least another 18 months.

Source: Flight International