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Tupolev moves ahead with Tu-204SM test-flight programme

Tupolev is working to cut Tu-204SM production and maintenance costs as it continues the test-flight programme for its updated twinjet, which has achieved 17 sorties since 29 December.

On 16 March it achieved its longest flight to date, 4h 58min, during which the crew conducted tests of the flight-control and thrust computers and made automated landing approaches.

The flight also involved assessment of pitot-head accuracy at altitudes up to 36,000ft (11,000m). This test regime continued the following day with banks of 30°, altimeter evaluation and manoeuvring at low and "ultra low" altitudes - including passes over the runway at a height of 50ft - and missed approaches. "The major challenge we're facing is to adjust a new digital flight control system," Tupolev president Alexander Bobryshev says.

Key component suppliers met on 10 March to discuss the test regime and organisation of "effective after-sales service" for the type. Lessor Ilyushin Finance is looking to lower costs on the Tu-204SM.

Darya Dorenvendt, deputy director of Ilyushin Finance, says it has agreed a scheme to bundle maintenance and lease payments. "Apart from a pay-for-hour principle, it envisages creating a readily available renewable stock of parts, fewer shop visits and shorter turnaround times," Dorenvendt says.

"This could help slash maintenance costs by a third and reduce overall ownership costs substantially," she adds.

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