Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDONPaul Duffy/CAIRO

KATO GROUP of Egypt has revived the Rolls-Royce-powered Tupolev Tu-204 programme with a contract for 30 aircraft, as part of a planned commitment for 200 examples of the Russian twinjet. Kato will set up an international aerospace group to market and support the aircraft worldwide.

The initial contract covers firm orders for 13 aircraft, and options on a further 17. The contract has been placed through the Tupolev/ Aviastar/Aviaexport Group and, says the Kato Group, will extend to the delivery of some 200 Tu-204s over the next five years. Production is expected to rise from an initial rate of one a month to six a month by 2001.

R-R says that it has received a contract for an initial 30 shipsets, which it values at $450 million, and describes it as "-the first of what is expected to be a major aircraft project". Deposits have been received, but R-R cannot confirm whether the deal is conditional on the new venture successfully placing the aircraft ordered. The first shipset of RB.211-535E4Bs was delivered to Aviastar's Ulyanovsk factory in June for installation on the first R-R-powered Tu-204 production aircraft. The prototype R-R-powered Tu-204 began test-flights in August 1992.

The Kato Group is headed by Egyptian industrialist Dr Ibrahim Kamel, who has bold plans to create an international vehicle through which the R-R-powered Tu-204 will be marketed. It is effectively taking up the mantle left by the now-defunct Bravia consortium. Kato says that "-the group will provide a sophisticated leasing facility to enable carriers to acquire modern aircraft". The initial marketing effort will concentrate on Russia and the CIS countries.

The company has already committed some $100 million to the project, and plans to retain a 25% share in the consortium overall. It says that full details of the new consortium will be announced in October and that "-negotiations are in hand with potential technical partners to enable worldwide product support for the Tu-204, from a European centre". It is understood that discussions have been held with Lufthansa Technik and Lockheed Martin.

Kato is negotiating with Rockwell-Collins, AlliedSignal and Honeywell on a contract for the aircraft's Western avionics suite, and the successful vendor is expected to be named soon. The first five aircraft will be completed with Russian avionics.

The R-R Tu-204 programme is on course to secure Russian certification in January 1997. Work for European Joint Aviation Authorities approval is under way, and certification is expected in 1998.

Aviastar has set up a joint venture in Taiwan, with Far Eastern interests, to market the Tu-204o

Source: Flight International