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Russia: Ilyushin Set To Take Off With New Aircraft

Moscow, 9 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's leading aircraft manufacturer, Ilyushin, says it's on the verge of putting a new air freighter on the market.

It's the Ilyushin IL96T cargo plane, with U.S. engines supplied by Pratt and Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp. The company says the aircraft will sell for about $70 million.

Engines are not the only U.S. contributions to the new Ilyushin.The first model rolled off the line last month in a celebratory ceremony attended by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. But the ceremony was months late because of financing problems, an endemic issue in cash and credit-starved Russia.

Aeroflot, Russian International Airlines, plans to purchase 20 IL96s, with two aircraft to be delivered next year and delivery of all 20 to be completed by 2001. The U.S. Eximbank and a number of European and Russian banks are funding the deal, with the Russian government as guarantor.

Top managers at Ilyushin say they need at least $22 million in operating funds to manufacture the Aeroflot planes. They say they avoided borrowing at the high interest rates charged by Russian commercial banks.

Vladimir Belyakov, who oversees foreign marketing for the Ilyushin group, told RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow that he anticipates only minor obstacles in finding international and domestic markets for the new aircraft. Its maiden flight is scheduled for later this month from Voronezh, 550 km south of Moscow.

One obstacle is that the plane has yet to be certified by the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), the civil aviation watchdog of the Commonwealth of Independent States. MAK also is negotiating with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for reciprocal automatic certification by each agency of any new aircraft accepted by the other.