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MAKS: Western aerospace suppliers eye growing Russian air travel

Western aircraft parts suppliers are trying to grab what they see as a growing market for air travel in Russia.

These manufacturers are bringing optimism to the MAKS air show in Moscow despite the struggles of the Russian economy and the difficulties of the country’s aerospace manufacturing sector. Several manufacturers have been burned in the past by Russian aviation projects that haven't panned out, such the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner, which was engined via PowerJet, a 50-50 joint venture between France’s Safran and NPO Saturn of Russia.

The growing air travel market in Russia still seems worth it to these manufacturers. For instance, CFM International, a 50-50 joint venture between Safran and GE Aviation, believes the number of airline passengers in Russia will grow annually at about 5% to 160 million passengers by 2024. That’s slightly faster than the 4.5% annual growth rate of airline passengers worldwide, it says.

As a result CFM says it is pitching its Leap engine at the show to a number of Russian airlines. The Leap high-bypass turbofan debuted in Russia in October 2018 aboard a Boeing 737 Max received by S7 Airlines. Upcoming Leap deliveries include NordStar, Utair, Belavia Belarusian Airlines and Pobeda Airlines, says the manufacturer.

Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (a group of nine former Soviet republics) represent an important market for CFM International, as the company says its older turbine, the CFM56, has a 90% market share in those regions.

Collins Aerospace-owned Ratier-Figeac of France is also making moves to grab pieces of the Russian market. The company supplies a number of parts for the Irkut MC-21, the narrow-body twin-engined jet airliner that is Russia’s latest attempt to break the Western world’s grip on commercial aviation.

Ratier-Figeac supplies the MC-21 with a full cockpit controls suite, including two active side stick units, as well as cabin equipment for the aircraft’s doors. Parent company Collins Aerospace provides primary and secondary flight controls actuation, electric power generation and distribution systems.

Even though the MC-21 hasn’t received much interest outside of Russian airlines – some of which are backed by Moscow with state finance – Ratier-Figeac sees a solid aircraft.

“The MC-21 is definitely a great airplane born from an advanced design,” says Jean-Francois Chanut, general manager of propeller systems and president of Ratier-Figeac. “We have received very good feedback from the flight test team and are confident that the aircraft, with our system onboard, will perform very well in operations.”

The company is also eyeing supplying parts for the Chinese-Russian wide-body project, the CRAIC CR929. Moreover, it sees synergy in supplying Russian and Chinese development projects, including the narrow-body Comac C919.

“We believe that building a family of platforms, reusing the most recent technologies developed successfully on the MC-21 or C919 is a good opportunity to offer a wider fleet to airlines at a reduced development cost and lower programme risks,” says Chanut.

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