The Tupolev Tu-204-300 made its first flight earlier this month from the Aviastar production factory in Ulyanovsk. The 160-seater aircraft, previously dubbed the Tu-234, is a shrink of the 200-seat Aviadvigatel PS-90-powered Tu-204-100 twinjet.

Although Tupolev completed the conversion of the prototype Tu-204 to Tu-234/204-300 standard in 1995, lack of finance meant the aircraft never flew. As a result, the first example to fly was a production version (RA-64026), which took off from Ulyanovsk on 8 July with an Aviastar flightcrew.

The twinjet, which was recently redesignated the Tu-204-300, is 6m (19.7ft) shorter than the basic Tu-204 and can carry up to 160 passengers over a range of 9,250km (5,000nm). The aircraft has the same powerplants as the larger version, but a lower empty weight, allowing more fuel to be carried.

The new model will also be offered with the Rolls-Royce RB211-535E4, as is the larger Tu-204-120 version. Commonality with the Tu-204 will allow the aircraft a shortened certification programme. The Aviaregister of the MAK has specified 50h of flight testing and the aircraft may begin certification trials next month.

• Sverbank has become the first major Russian bank to provide finance for an airline to acquire a new-generation Russian airliner. It has lent $17.8 million to Sibir to purchase outright the single Tu-204 that it operates.

Of the loan, $15.8 million has been paid to Avialeasing, an associate company of Perm Motors, which took the aircraft from the manufacturer in part settlement of debts in 1997. Avialeasing will use the money to complete two other Tu-204s, now at an advanced stage of production in Aviastar's Ulyanovsk factory, for delivery to Sibir.

Vyacheslav Filiov, general director of Sibir, says the airline had decided to take its second and third aircraft from Aviastar (instead of Kazan) as Aviastar offered earlier delivery, but any later aircraft could come from "either factory".

Source: Flight International