Re: Russian aircraft

From:         drinkard@bcstec.ca.boeing.com (Terrell D. Drinkard)
Organization: Boeing
Date:         31 Jul 93 20:50:03 PDT
References:   1 2
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In article <airliners.1993.545@ohare.Chicago.COM> kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz) writes:
>>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.

There are a couple of issues here.  One is maintenance training.  A Pratt
or a GE has an established base of mechanics and suppliers familiar with
their products.  Perm doesn't.  Add higher fuel burn, more maintenance, and
some doubt as to long-term parts availability and you can see where an
airline might not want the domestic Russian engine.  This becomes a
nonissue for airlines who have a history of using Russian products or for
those without much cash.

>    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.

My understanding of Russian avionics reliability is limited, but I have
heard that their fly-by-wire system is very rugged and has a long service
history with military aircraft.  I think one major problem is that everyone
is familiar with the system used to get your Collins box fixed, but what do
you do to get a Russian one fixed?

>    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.)

I have to agree with that.

>    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?

In areas where the Soviets used to have a big presence, I feel sure we will
find the support to be adequate.  The working relationships will already
have been established, systems partly in place. 

[...]

>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.

The Tu-404 model was shown in the most recent Aerospace America.
Apparently it was on display at the Paris Airshow.  Interesting.

The Russians have always fascinated me.  They have gobs of industrial
capacity, raw materials, skilled designers and workers, and yet can't quite
seem to make it in the world market.  Presumably that had to do with their
government and will shortly be rectified.  Interestingly enough, most
Western airframers seem to be afraid of the Japanese breaking into the
commercial airplane industry from below with a small (100 seat class)
airplane.  The Russians seem to pose a threat from the other end of the
spectrum, large aircraft.


-- 
Terry
drinkard@bcstec.boeing.com
"Anyone who thinks they can hold the company responsible for what I say has
more lawyers than sense."