Sirocco Aerospace demonstrated the Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Tupolev Tu-204-120C to Lufthansa in early June as a potential medium haul freighter for the airline's cargo division.

Lufthansa is the technical advisor to the Sirocco programme, but wanted to check the freighter version's capacity to load/unload the containers and pallets used by Lufthansa Cargo. The opportunity was also taken to check approach and departure noise levels.

Lufthansa Cargo says that it is focusing on its 747-200 fleet and deliveries of the Boeing MD-11 to meet its requirements. It is also assessing the 747-400 for future expansion. The demonstration was part of its look at aircraft in which it may have a long term interest.

Meanwhile, taxation problems have delayed delivery of the first RB211-powered Tu-204s from Sirocco to Russian carrier Kras Air. Although the Tu-204 airframes are built by Aviastar at its plant in Ulyanavosk, Russia, the Russian authorities are seeking a 30% import tax on the full value of all foreign components of the aircraft - engines, avionics, equipment and interiors, plus a 20% non-refundable value added tax on the "aircraft, plus import tax". This would result in surcharge of about 38%, which would have a considerable effect on operating costs.

Until the tax issue can be resolved, it is unlikely that any Tu-204-120s will go to Russian airlines. Sirocco is considering diverting these aircraft to other customers.

Source: Flight International