Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

Sirocco Aerospace and Lufthansa Technik have frozen plans to establish a worldwide support network for the Tupolev Tu-204-120, in the face of the Russian economic crisis.

Meanwhile, the German company's sister business, Lufthansa Cargo, confirms that it has decided not to acquire the freighter version of the Rolls-Royce RB211-powered aircraft for the time being.

Despite the setbacks, however, Sirocco and Russian design bureau Tupolev have accelerated by 12 months plans to certificate a high gross weight version of the RB211-powered Tu-204-120 freighter - offering a 30t payload.

Sirocco Aerospace director Gerry Connolly says that the Lufthansa Technik co-operation is "-still in the pipeline, but because of the Russian crisis, what we've had to do is address the situation that, in the short term, Russian airlines are not really in a position to take the aircraft".

Connolly says that product support is focused on Egypt, with Air Cairo recently having taken delivery of the first R-R-powered Tu-204-120. The airline is majority owned by Sirocco parent Kato Aromatic, which has orders and options for up to 200 Tu-204s.

Plans for the global support network, ago set out a year in a memorandum of understanding between Sirocco and Lufthansa Technik, will be "-re-activated when necessary", claims Connolly, who describes the issue as "vitally important" to the company's marketing efforts.

Peter Kamenz, Lufthansa Technik director of sales for Eastern Europe and the CIS, says: "We are reassessing our strategy towards the Tu-204 due to the current situation, both economically and politically, in Russia."

Connolly says that Sirocco's efforts to place Tu-204s with Lufthansa Cargo stalled because the two companies failed to find a Russian air operator's certificate holder in a financial position to operate the aircraft on the German firm's behalf.

The German company had been considering testing the Russian type on the Moscow-Cologne route under an aircraft, maintenance, crew and insurance contract, but because the Tu-204 does not have European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) certification, the aircraft would have been placed on the Russian register.

Connolly says that Lufthansa Cargo remains interested in the high gross weight version of the Tu-204, which is now due to gain Russian certification in May 2000, 12 months earlier than planned. He says that JAA certification would follow "shortly thereafter".

The new variant has a strengthened floor, revamped cargo door and no passenger windows, raising payload capacity from the current 25t, to 30t. The first aircraft is in production and due to be rolled out in August.

Lufthansa Cargo has a requirement for a "continental freighter", but says current market conditions mean that no decision is likely before next year.

"We are, on the one hand, getting the Boeing MD-11 freighters, but of course we are thinking about other possibilities for a continental freighter," it says.

The company adds that there are no longer discussions taking place with Sirocco.

Source: Flight International