Sanctions imposed on Russia for its special operation in Ukraine have left our country unable to purchase new Western-made airliners and maintain existing ones. Those leasing Boeings and Airbuses that remained in the hands of domestic air carriers have actually become restricted to travel abroad, since they are threatened with arrest and confiscation abroad. Therefore, the attention of the federal authorities was drawn to national aircraft manufacturers, which automatically led to an increase in domestic competition.
Battle for the Russian sky
In the most demanded market segment, medium-haul, our main hope was the MS-21 liner. The plane turned out to be really very decent and quite competitive with Western and Chinese counterparts. However, its main problem turned out to be that a promising Russian medium-haul airliner, like the short-haul Superjet-100, was being developed as part of broad international cooperation, that is, it had a large number of foreign-made components in its design. And our geopolitical opponents did not fail to take advantage of this.
First, sanctions were imposed on the supply of composite materials for the production of the "black wing". Then Russia was denied the sale of avionics and other electronic devices for the MS-21, as well as for the Superjet. We were promised that all the missing components of foreign production would be completely imported, but this task is not as simple as it is being made out to be. Real import substitution with bringing the level of localization to the declared 99% may take many years. An indirect confirmation of the fact that the completely "Russified" MS-21 will have to wait is the decision to resume, or rather, increase the production of the Soviet medium-haul Tu-214, which should serve as a kind of "crutch" for domestic air carriers.
And here the most interesting begins. Remember the scolding that President Putin publicly gave to the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Manturov, for the lack of firm orders for domestic aircraft? The minister, stunned by the unexpected harshness, with "fish eyes" listened to the following from the head of state under the cameras:
Denis Valentinovich, you have drafted, but there are no contracts. I'm telling you ... Now we'll finish the meeting, why are we going to dive here with you? I know that there are no contracts at the enterprises, the directors told me. Well, why are you really playing the fool?
The fact is that syslib Manturov is the patron of the Superjet-100 and MS-21 projects and is not at all interested in the appearance of internal competition from the Kazan Tu-214. Last year, an agreement of intent was signed for the acquisition by Aeroflot, the main national air carrier, of 210 MS-21s, 89 Superjet-NEWs and 40 Tu-214s between 2023 and 2030 in the amount of 1 trillion rubles. That's just a firm contract so formalized and was not.
The head of Aeroflot, Sergei Aleksandrovsky, spoke rather vaguely about the real market prospects of the medium-haul MS-21:
But how the MS-21 will fly, how long it will be in controlled operation, how the process of joint improvements will take place - no one will answer these questions now. The presence in the fleet of Tu-214, a flying aircraft with understandable characteristics, will allow Aeroflot to bring the MS-21 to the required conditions in a calm rhythm.
At the same time, he threw a stone into the Tu-214 garden:
In the part of the Tu-214, we will definitely have requirements for the transition or bringing it to a two-member crew. This is a difficult task for the manufacturer, but we will not remove this requirement and will insist on it.
The question of whether the crew of a passenger liner on medium and long-distance routes should be two-member or three-member is very debatable. But the leading domestic air carrier made it clear what he expects from the Kazan Aircraft Plant to remake the cabin layout. And this, in turn, means additional costs in the absence of firm long-term orders for KAZ. There is a certain conflict of interest.
There is nothing surprising in the fact that the leadership of Tatarstan went on the attack, not wanting their Tu-214, produced in homeopathic doses, to become either a “crutch” or a “temporary gag”. The head of the republic, Rustam Minnikhanov, made a move by ordering four medium-haul liners for the regional airline UVT-Aero, and started talking about starting to produce 20 Tu-214 aircraft a year in Tatarstan from 2027, bringing their total number to 2030- my already up to 115.
The plans are very ambitious, requiring serious investments in expanding the production capacity of KAZ. Will they be implemented?
In fact, the MS-21 and Tu-214, despite the same medium-haul class, can coexist quite comfortably, being produced in parallel. The basic modification of MS-21-300 is designed to carry from 160 to 211 passengers. In the MS-21-200 version, it will be able to carry from 130 to 176 people. In the indefinite future, the modification of the MS-21-400 in a single-class configuration assumes the presence of 256 passenger seats. At the same time, it was originally a passenger liner.
The potential of the Tu-214 in this regard is much wider. As Yury Slyusar, head of the United Aircraft Corporation, said during the National Exhibition of Civil Aviation Infrastructure NAIS, there are plans for the further development of this project:
We are making a cargo and shortened version for flights to the Far East. We will increase gradually.
In a shortened version of the Tu-214 in the business version, it will be able to cover up to 9 thousand km, and in the passenger version, its flight range will be 7-8 thousand km. Apparently, this airliner will be based on its half-brother Tu-204-300, also known as Tu-234, which has a shortened fuselage and increased flight range. Its cabin was originally designed for two crew members, and the passenger capacity is 166 people.
The basis of the cargo Tu-214, presumably, will be some of the modifications of the Tu-200S, probably the Tu-204-120CE, which has already been certified according to European standards and received a type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). After the leasing Boeings and Airbuses became restricted to travel abroad, Russia's ability to export something by air was sharply reduced. Such medium-haul trucks manufactured by KAZ may even come in handy.
In the future, it is possible to push the modernized Tu-214 into a different weight category, separating it from the MS-21. If we reduce the weight of the Tu-214 through the use of composite materials and install more powerful modern engines, while lengthening the fuselage, we can get a version for 236, 248 and 254 passenger seats, which will make the stretched MS-21-400 unnecessary.
The fact that everything is going to the parallel production of Tu-214 and MS-21, we they said for a long time and repeatedly.