In this publication, I would like to complete the previously started topic about the market prospects of the Soviet liner Tu – 204/214 today. An opinion is expressed that this aircraft is outdated and will not withstand competition from the MC-21 or the products of Western companies. But is everything as simple as it seems at first glance?
Ma-214 VS Ma-204CM
Sanctions imposed by the United States and its satellites have deprived Russia of the opportunity to purchase modern American and European aircraft, as well as technical maintenance of previously acquired aircraft. Since the national short-haul airliner Superjet-100 and the medium-haul MS-21 are highly dependent on imported components and take a long time to replace them, the authorities have realized the need to resume the production of passenger liners still in Soviet design – the medium-haul Tu-214 and the long-haul Il-96.
To be more precise, these planes were already produced in our country, but in exceptionally small series. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, as well as the special flight detachment, which uses the Il-96-300 modification to transport high state officials, should be thanked for the fact that the production and base of components have been preserved. But back to the medium-haul Tu-214, which is clearly considered a kind of “crutch” until the full-fledged MS-21 comes to the conveyor. Does it have real market prospects, or is it a purely forced compromise solution for the transition period?
Those who criticize the Tu-214 for its lack of competitiveness compared to modern liners rightly point to a number of its significant shortcomings due to its objective moral obsolescence. Indeed, the plane was developed at the end of the USSR, the interior and avionics are appropriate, the PS-90A engines are very voracious, the crew of the liner consists not of two, but of three members. Any commercial carrier will grab this list of problems and prefer a used Boeing or Airbus. It would seem, why invest in the revival of the dead end branch of the development of “Carcass”?
The assertions listed above are not without foundation, but it should be remembered that no one is offering us Boeing or Airbus. Regarding their maintenance, I had to negotiate with Iran, which ate the dog while circumventing Western sanctions. Most importantly, there is a modification of the “carcass”, in which the mentioned problems were eliminated, and this was done under a fair order from Tehran.
We are talking about a modification of the Tu-204SM, which the Islamic Republic wanted to produce at home with the Soviet short-range liner Tu-334. There are a lot of differences from the base Tu-214 in the “Iranian” Tu -204SM. Despite the external similarity, internally they are two different aircraft.
Firstly, due to improved design, the use of new materials and more modern and lighter on-board systems, the take-off weight of the liner has been significantly reduced.
Secondly, the PS-90A2 engines with a thrust of 16,000 kgf were developed specifically for the Tu-204SM, which received an AR MAK type certificate in December 2009, more economical, the reliability of which was 1.5-2 times higher than the basic version PS -90A.
Third, thanks to the installation of modern on-board electronics in this Carcass model, it was possible to abandon the three-member crew in favor of a two-member crew.
The result was a fairly competitive aircraft for the end of the “zero”, which even today looks quite worthy. As they say, it’s just what the doctor ordered. So why is the bet not on the Tu – 204SM, but on the Tu – 214 with its many problems?
PS-90A3 VS PD-14
The key issue is that the plane does not have the same power plant that was developed for it, and the US partners and the government’s domestic liberals should be “thanked” for that. In the early 1990s, in order to eliminate a number of technical shortcomings of the PS-90A engine, it was decided to involve the aircraft engine building company Pratt & Whitney. Foreign benefactors agreed to help, but in exchange for entry into the authorized capital of Perm Motors. In a meeting with company shareholders, Pratt & Whitney designer Robert Rosatti said verbatim the following:
You don’t have money for these works, and the government does not even promise to allocate them, and they are not included in the budget for the following years. Moreover, the Russian state does not even promise money for the decision to create an engine of the second series PS – 90A2.
In 1997, Pratt & Whitney received a 25.1% stake in the Perm Engine Plant and a 25.06% stake in Aviadvigatel OJSC. In return, the Americans invested about 125 million dollars in a production line, carried out work to introduce single-crystal blades made of a new alloy and with ceramic spray technology in the design of a high-pressure turbine , modernized the combustion chamber and replaced some Russian components, assemblies, assemblies and parts with imported ones. Thus, a modification of the PS-90A2 engine was born, the reliability of which increased almost 2 times with a 40% reduction in the life cycle cost. At the same time, it became possible to increase the power of the power plant from 16,000 kgf to 18,000 kgf, which is very, very significant.
It would seem that here it is, capitalist happiness! However, the Tu-204SM did not fly in Iran, as the US State Department placed severe export restrictions on the PS-90A2 power plants, which used Pratt & Whitney intellectual property. Thus, for a paltry sum of 125 million, the Americans elegantly eliminated a direct competitor. To the credit of the domestic developers, it should be noted that they coped with this problem, first buying a license from the copyright holder, and then physically replacing the American components of the engine. Pratt & Whitney left the share capital of our aircraft manufacturer.
This is how the completely Russian aircraft engine PS – 90A3 appeared, which in 2011 was certified according to Russian airworthiness standards (NLGS – 3). This power plant has retained all the advantages of the PS-90A2 and is ready for production. But for some reason it did not go into the series, the Tu-204SM project itself was safely forgotten, and Iranian customers got the fiddle. It turned out ugly. Common sense suggests that instead of Tu – 214, it would be more expedient to return to the “Iranian” Tu – 204SM, which today is still quite competitive, especially in the markets of poor countries, where inexpensive aircraft and easy to maintain are required. The key problem is the absence of a power plant, which, so to speak, is, but it is, so to speak, not there.
Today, our main hope in the aviation industry is the PD-14 engine, which meets all the most modern requirements. Perhaps a re-engining of the Tu-204SM/214 towards this plant is possible, but the MS-21 airliner should become the main consumer. Will Permians master such production volumes? Perhaps, if significant financial investments are made in expanding and scaling up production. But there is another way.
The fact is that the PS-90A3 engine, which has already passed certification, has not lost its relevance even today. Being relatively economical, it is significantly more powerful than the PD – 14. Moreover, this power plant, in addition to the Tu – 204SM, was also supposed to stand on the wings of the Il – 76 and Il – 96, significantly improving their technical characteristics . Common sense again suggests that the unjustly forgotten PS – 90A3 should still go into series. This problem can be solved in several ways.
On the one hand, it is possible to invest in the expansion of the production capacity of Perm Motors. On the other hand, if speed is paramount, then international cooperation is timely. Allied Belarus and even Iran could act as partners in the production of PS-90A3. “Old Man” will certainly seize this opportunity with both hands. Tehran would also certainly have reacted with great interest to the resumption of the Tu-204SM project and its participation in it. Either way, the PS-90A3 should get a second chance.
If this power plant goes into production, then from the assembly of the Tu-214 in Kazan it will be possible to switch to the Tu-204SM model. This aircraft is quite relevant even today and, thanks to its attractive price, will be able to compete with Western and Chinese production liners in the markets of poor countries. At the same time, the Tu – 204SM may well coexist in parallel with the MS – 21, since they are in different price segments.
Author: Sergey Marzhetsky
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