Re: Russian aircraft. Was BAe ATP Performance (was: BAe ATP performance )

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works
Date:         30 Jul 93 13:28:22 PDT
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>What do people think about the sales prospects for the new Russian aircraft?
>I am not sure about the technical merits but the prices being quoted can
>not be ignored.

I've talked with some folks at the competition about this and they
certainly aren't ignoring the potential threat.  I'll be interested
in seeing their answers, but as I see it there are many potential
pitfalls:

    Russian engines are inefficient and unreliable compared to modern
    Western designs.  Obviously the Russian airframe manufacturers are
    dealing with this by hanging on Western engines.

    Russian avionics apparently aren't up to Western standards, hence
    the move to Western equipment in this area as well.  This is just
    conjecture on my part, based on what's happening -- there may be
    other real motivations for the shift.

    There appears to be some concern about the safety standards
    embodied in the Russian aircraft.  There don't appear to be any
    show-stoppers here, but it could delay Western certification and
    require some lengthy and costly modifications.  Probably of more
    concern in this area is perception rather than reality.  (There's
    also a perception of Russian airliners having rather unpleasant
    interiors, but seats are a customer option anyway and outfitting
    a Russian plane with Western interior equipment shouldn't be of
    any great problem.  None of this matters for cargo, of course, and
    with the image problem not significant this may well be the best
    opening for the Russians.)

    Support is tremendously important.  Boeing has a reputation for
    wonderful support, anywhere on the globe.  The issue represented
    a major uphill battle for Airbus, though they seem to have passed
    at least the worst of it.  The Russians are starting from zero in
    this area, and the problem is further compounded by the political
    instability of the region.  Would you invest millions in a piece
    of equipment that you'd have to live with for thirty years if you
    couldn't be sure the manufacturer's home country wouldn't be in a
    civil war in only a year or two?

On the other hand, the Russians seem to have some genuine talents in
airframe design and espeically aerodynamics, I believe.  Boeing is
opening a design center in Moscow precisely to tap in some of this
ability.  Russian airframes, with Western engines and other equipment,
plus collaborative support deals such as the one for the Rolls-Royce-
engined Tu-204, may also be a promising answer to the problems which
I mentioned above.

As for the planes themselves, the Tu-204 compares quite favorably with
Boeing's 757.  I'm not saying it's a copy, though there certainly are
some strong resemblances, but it appears to be a good, solid aircraft
with competetive performance specs when using the same RB.211 or
PW2000 engines as the 757.  (Well, not exactly the same, since there
are undoubtedly differences in auxiliaries, mountings, the nacelle,
etc., but the basic engine is the same.)

The Il-96-M probably doesn't have as much potential, if only because
of its four-engined design.  From the sketchy numbers I have it seems
to fit rougly in the A300-600 or 767-300 segment, and having more than
two engines is a serious marketing liability.  It may reach the A340
and MD-11 in performance, both of which are having at least a bit of a
fight to carve out a significant market niche.  (It's hard to tell on
the A340 as everyone seems to have a different opinion of how well it
is doing!)

Finally, I read something a while back about the Russians having a
serious interest in building a 600-800 seat long-range aircraft in
response to the current interest in such a beast.  It should be
interesting to see if they pursue this, or perhaps join the NLA
collaboration led by Boeing and DASA.  Since most of the other Airbus
members (is that the right word?) appear to be involved in this as
well, if the Russians joined in, it seems that only McDonnell-Douglas
would be left out in the cold.

--
Karl Swartz	|INet	kls@ditka.chicago.com		
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