Aircraft to be placed on wet-lease with overseas carriers pending domestic clearance

Tatarstan Air has acquired three Tupolev Tu-134s as an interim measure to fill a gap left by its inability to operate domestically a batch of Bombardier CRJ900s because of the lack of local certification for the type.

The Kazan-based carrier is negotiating with counterparts in Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates about placing the six CRJ900s it has on order on wet-lease, as it cannot operate domestically until Russian certification is received.

Last month, the carrier received the first CRJ900 left in temporary storage in Canada, with the next delivery due on 15 May. It will also take one aircraft in each of the final four months of 2007.

"We're not going to back away from the acquisition plan," says Tatarstan Air director Magomed Zakarzhayev. "But we need to put these aircraft in commercial service abroad until we gain domestic certification for them."

Bombardier confirms the order for six CRJ900s plus four options, and says that the certification process "is an operational issue and is being addressed by Tatarstan Air". It adds that it is supporting the airline with this process "as and when required".

Zakarzhayev identifies Ukrainian flag carrier Ukraine International Airlines and one of the UAE-based airlines as potential lessees of CRJ900s.

Tatarstan Air had prepared to promptly introduce the entire batch on short- to medium-haul routes to replace four Tupolev Tu-134s and six Yakovlev Yak-42s. But Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee, which conducts certification of foreign aircraft types, says it cannot initiate this procedure for the CRJ900 without a government-issued directive.

As a stopgap measure and to help the airline meet growing demand, Nur-Avia has now acquired three Tu-134s from Moscow-based air operator Karat, one of which will be used for spare parts.

"Hopefully, this equipment won't be with us for more than three years and during that time we'll manage to get clearance for CRJ900s," says Zakarzhayev.

Source: Flight International