In Tupolev Design Bureau told about possible modifications of the Tu-214 aircraft

Tu-204C in DHL livery. MAKS-2015 / Photo by © Russian Aviation

Increasing production of Tu-214 medium-haul aircraft is a federal task. New production facilities are being prepared in Kazan and modern equipment is being purchased. In order to ensure construction volumes, 20 Tu-214 aircraft per year from 2027 will be produced on the in-line assembly line without staple assembly. Now one aircraft is in the shop of final assembly, others – at the stage of aggregate assembly and panel assembly, usually such work is launched for 4-5 machines. Vadim Korolev, Managing Director of PJSC Tupolev, told about it in an interview to Business Online.

He also said that the first Tu-214 for Red Wings Airlines is undergoing the final stages of airworthiness restoration, and soon the aircraft owner Ilyushin Finance Co. will transfer it to the carrier’s fleet. UAC plans to make the second aircraft a flying laboratory for testing updated components. The Tu-214 has outdated and imported equipment that requires replacement and certification. Upon completion of the testing programme of upgraded systems, the aircraft will be put into commercial operation.

According to Vadim Korolev, in addition to production upgrades, the Tu-214 programme is also working on the development of new modifications of the aircraft.

The first priority, which was previously expressed by Aeroflot CEO Sergei Alexandrovsky, is the need to modernise the cockpit for two pilots. Tests of such an aircraft are planned to start in 2026. At the same time, the machines with two pilots and a flight engineer, which are required by the military and special services, will be retained.

In this regard, the head of Tupolev said that in 2010 the aircraft Tu-204SM received a type certificate, but today that complex of on-board equipment is outdated. The control system of general aircraft equipment, which made it possible to implement a two-member principle on the SM, was developed in the MC-21, and today Tupolev is finalising it for itself, V. Korolev explained.

During the X National Civil Aviation Infrastructure Exhibition NAIS, held in February 2023, UAC CEO Yury Slyusar informed that the corporation will bring to the market a cargo and shortened versions of the Tu-214 aircraft. The shortened aircraft in the business version will be able to travel up to 9 thousand kilometres, and in the passenger version – 7-8 thousand kilometres. This will make it possible to ensure the connectivity of territories by performing direct non-stop flights from the European part of the country to destinations in the Far East.

Vadim Korolev confirmed this information to UAC in an interview, specifying that the shortened version of the Tu-214 will be created on the type of the Tu-204-300 aircraft. “This model can make an efficient machine for long-distance flights, for example, Moscow – Vladivostok,” he specified.

A cargo version of the aircraft can be created on an initiative basis, said the head of Tupolev, and potentially such a modification could be in demand for the carriage of cargo on domestic and international routes, Vadim Korolev added.

In 2022, after the ban imposed by the European Union, the United States, Canada and other unfriendly countries on Russian transport and passenger aircraft overflying their airspace, the volume of cargo traffic collapsed by almost 60 per cent. To restore the market, the government is supporting carriers, and while passenger traffic is growing steadily and may reach 101 million people by the end of the year, the volume of cargo traffic of Russian airlines may recover only by 2030.

This is primarily due to the fact that airlines are unable to increase the volume of traffic due to a shortage of aircraft, and UAC has to rely on aircraft that have been in storage for a long time. For example, the IL-96-400T freighter with registration RA-96103, restored to airworthiness, was scheduled to be delivered to AirBridgeCargo for operation by its subsidiary Volga-Dnepr in early 2023. Now the airline is unable to fully restore its geography and number of flights due to a shortage of aircraft; one of the carrier’s AN-124s has been arrested at Toronto airport, and in mid-November Volga-Dnepr filed a lawsuit in the federal court of Canada demanding that the illegal sanctions be lifted.

But ABC is a private company, and Sky Gates Airlines, which eventually received the Il-96, is owned by Red Wings, which is part of Rostec’s structures. Hence, UAC’s priority is to support state-owned companies. Taking into account that in Ulyanovsk IL-76MD-90A are produced under the contract with the Ministry of Defence in the amount of no more than 6-7 aircraft per year, we should not expect these aircraft to be delivered to civilian cargo companies in the foreseeable future. It remains to remove aircraft from storage and restore those that can still be restored.

Thus, there is a shortage of cargo aircraft on the Russian transport aircraft market, and the appearance of the Tu-214 freighter would be a good help for carriers. The problem is that the timeframe for the creation of such an aircraft is not named, and as a result, the Tu-214 in the cargo version may not appear.