Tim Ripley

Russian aerospace executives have launched a major campaign to generate interest in the Tupolev Tu-324 regional aircraft, after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the new aircraft his stamp of approval. The jet-powered aircraft is at the forefront of the Russian aerospace industry's efforts to compete with Western European and North America companies. It is the first Russian aircraft programme to be funded totally by commercial backers and the first being designed using computer technology. "The Tu-324 is a 52-passenger aircraft with modern double-loop jet engines," says Nazir Kireev, who heads the Tartarstan government's management group. "Its flight range when fully loaded is 2,500km (1,400nm). It can be successfully used on regional routes with low passenger flow. "Advanced dimensions and flight characteristics of the Tu-324 can easily make it a comfortable business-jet. With 10-12 passengers on board it can cover a distance of over 7,000km. Modern avionics, satellite communication system, low noise engines and interior will be made to customer's requirements and mean it will be truly desirable by business people and companies alike.

Kireev's special management group was created by the government of the Republic of Tartarstan to work with the Tupolev Design Bureau and Kazan Aircraft Production Association (KAPO).In the mid-1990s the Tartarstan government initiated first studies of a regional aircraft under the auspices of Tupolev. Then in 1996 the project was backed up by the Russian government. Since then it has been funded from non-state money. The series production of an airplane will begin in 2003. In 2004 first batches of Tu-324 will be available for airlines.

"At the moment Tupolev has completed airplane drawings. The AI-22 gas generator has been undergoing tests since 1999," he says. "Full scale jet engine tests will start at the end of this summer. KAPO has begun preparations for manufacturing of the experimental airplane. The main task of the management team is to coordinate the cooperation of all participants in this project to ensure world quality standards."

The Tu-324 will be built by KAPO, which has experience of manufacturing such well-known passenger airplanes as the Tu-104 and Ilyushin Il-62, as well as military aircraft including the Tu-22M 'Backfire' and Tu-160 'Blackjack' supersonic missile carrying aircraft. Production of the Tu-214 is about to start.

The AI-22 jet engines for the Tu-324 aircraft were designed by 'Ivchenco Progress' Zaporozhye Machine Building Design Bureau and will be produced in cooperation with Kazan and Zaporozhye engine builders. American CF-34 engines can be installed in versions of the aircraft. "This project is truly international as our participants are from different countries," Kireev says. "But at the same time we wish to broaden their scope. We would be interested in cooperation with companies from China, India, Korea, Malaysia, UAE, Turkey etc. Everyone will have his own share of the rewards."

"The first test flight of an airplane will take place at the end of 2001 in Kazan," he says. "The Tu-324 has the highest technical and consumer characteristics and is aimed at the world market. Even at this stage it is planned to build several versions: passenger, business, transport, passenger-transport including some special modifications. "We are well aware of the needs of our own market where by the year 2005 a vast number of the existing aircraft, used on regional and local air routes, will be at the end of their life cycle.

"The aircraft will be equipped with the advanced avionics adequate to the year 2005 ICAO standards. A gangway door and auxiliary power unit will provide an autonomous mode of operation. "The Tu-324 has great potential for further development. According to our marketing research a 70-seater passenger aircraft will be in great demand. That is why we are to start a new project for a 72-76 seater version.

"Certification tests will begin in 2002. The airworthiness certificate is supposed to be received in 2003. To achieve it more than 50 certification test stands have been created and the most advanced flight test equipment has been designed."

Source: Flight Daily News