Ailing KAPO plant could take over production of dormant twinjet in exchange for $100 million to renovate factory

The Tupolev Tu-334 programme has been thrown a lifeline by the oil-rich Russian republic of Tatarstan, which is proposing to adopt the twinjet as the vehicle for the upgrade of its KAPO manufacturing plant in Kazan.

Tatarstan president Mentimer Shaimiev, in his quest for $100 million to support the renovation of KAPO's infrastructure, has written to Sergei Ivanov, deputy chairman of the Russian government, defence minister and recently appointed chairman of United Aircraft (OAK), which is co-ordinating the consolidation of the country's civil aerospace industry.

© Oleg Panteleev   

Only three Tu-334s have been built, due to a lack of firm orders

The plant, which builds the Tupolev Tu-214 (a Tu-204 derivative), aims to bolster its business with an assembly line for the Tu-334 and Tu-160 strategic bomber, but needs to invest in production equipment to dramatically improve its production efficiency.

Defence ministry sources told Flight International that Ivanov has sanctioned the necessary government funding. The sources add that the main reason behind the move is the need to support KAPO's Tu-160 production, but the planned rate of two units in three years is not enough on its own to support the huge plant's revival. Shaimiev's letter says that without the Tu-334 the plant could not survive, especially if Tu-214 work is lost as part of the OAK consolidation to Tu-204 builder Aviastar.

The 102-seat ZMKB Progress-powered Tu-334-100 received provisional Russian certification in 2003, but production is dormant after the completion of just three airframes due to the lack of firm orders. The aircraft is broadly similar in size and performance to the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ), but Tu-334 chief designer Igor Kalygin claims that the Tu-334's "clean wing" and shorter, wider fuselage provides higher aerodynamic efficiency over the competing SSJ and the 70-seat Antonov An-148.

The Tu-334-100 has a catalogue price of $20 million compared to the SSJ100-95's $28.9million, and is equipped with Russian and Ukrainian supplied systems rather than the raft of international suppliers that are on the SSJ.

Once KAPO has mastered production of the basic Tu-334-100, it could launch the long-proposed 120-seat -200 stretch, which would incorporate a reshaped wing to increase cruise speed and boost fuel capacity.

Source: Flight International