A Russian government-backed initiative has injected new life into the Tupolev Tu-204 twinjet with the signing of a framework agreement worth $1 billion for the construction of 46 aircraft at the Aviastar plant in Ulyanovsk. The deal has been concluded between Aviastar and the government-controlled leasing company Ilyushin Finance.

The agreement was reached during the visit to Ulyanovsk in October by a state commission headed by minister for economic development German Gref.

The agreement calls for Aviastar to produce 46 Tu-204s in the next six years, including four for KrasAir and two for Sibir Airlines. The rest should be allocated by the end of the year, with Chinese carriers set to be offered around half of the allocation.

During last week's Airshow China 2002, the Russian state delegation held meetings with Chinese authorities to discuss deliveries of Russian-made airliners to the region. Five Tu-204 freighters are already earmarked for Chinese airlines in a deal concluded last year, and according to Valery Voskoboinikov, first deputy general director of Russia's Rosaviacosmos state agency, China has placed orders for 20 Tu-204s. He says the two countries "have concluded a long-term agreement on strategic co-operation in civil aircraft production", adding that "working groups should be established by the end of this year to agree the details".

Meanwhile the issue of handing over 25% of Aviastar to Sirocco Aerospace, controlled by Egyptian entrepreneur Ibrahim Kamel, remains unresolved. The deal was agreed by Kamel and the Russian federal government earlier this year, but has not been finalised due to a dispute with the Ulyanovsk regional authorities (Flight International, 22-28 October).

Source: Flight International