TUPOLEV IS DUE to receive formally its Russian type certificate for the Tu-204 after winning certification on 29 December 1994.

Protocol issues have postponed the presentation until 10 January, but the delay means that the manufacturer is still uncertain whether, as it suspects, the certification will include a restriction on the type's Perm PS-90A engine-life.

Nevertheless, the approval finally gives Tupolev the opportunity to prove in the marketplace what is by far Russia's most advanced medium-haul airliner.

The manufacturer claims 268 "soft orders" which, it explains, are commitments from carriers which it has declined to "harden up" contractually before certification is granted.

Vnukovo Airlines has already acquired three aircraft and will also take numbers 11-13. Rossiya has two and is taking numbers 14 and 15; while Orielavia has received three and is the customer for numbers 8-10.

Other early customers, with order sizes, include St Petersburg (three); Kazakhstan (three); Uzbekistan (three); and Aviastar/Volga Dnepr (one).

Production plans call for 34-36 aircraft to be built at the Ulyanovsk manufacturing plant. A second line has opened at the Kazan plant, however, and the first aircraft from that line had been due to have its first flight early this month.

It is still possible that the type could become the first CIS jet airliner to be bought outside the former Soviet sphere of influence.

UK-based CanAvia CTA says that it has half-paid for two aircraft, pending certification. CanAvia head Harry Hawthorne is due in Moscow this month to progress the deal. He says: "We have willing parties for those aircraft; but not until they know they can go in and power the aircraft up."

The type is, however, a long way from Western certification and it is unlikely that it could be used routinely on scheduled passenger operations in the West.

Source: Flight International