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Thread: Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet

  1. #1
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    Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet ... lobal-home

    July 29, 2009
    Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a Western Fleet

    MOSCOW — Aeroflot’s symbol is still the winged hammer and sickle, but otherwise, the former communist carrier has mostly shrugged off its Soviet past. The strongest evidence yet: by the end of the year, it will fly a fleet nearly entirely made in the U.S.A. and Western Europe.

    Aeroflot is selling all of its Tupolev jets, the workhorse passenger aircraft of the former East Bloc. Once they are gone, only six of about 100 jets in Aeroflot’s fleet will be Russian-made. And those planes, Il-96s, will fly within Russia and on select foreign flights, including the Moscow-Havana and Moscow-Hanoi routes.

    That Aeroflot will fly almost exclusively Boeing and Airbus jets is a remarkable turn for a company that once owned virtually every civilian airplane in the Soviet Union. But the airline has tried to reinvent itself as a business carrier, and its passengers tend to prefer Western airplanes.

    While experts say Russian airplanes are well-constructed, poor maintenance and repairs brought them a bad reputation for safety after the Soviet collapse. And as any passenger will tell you, they are also more noisy and cramped. “I look at every bolt and every screw and wonder if any are loose, and I worry,” Anastasia A. Tkachova, a student flying to London on Aeroflot, said while awaiting a flight at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

    “It’s more comfortable to fly an Airbus,” another passenger, Mikhail A. Kotlyarov, said. But he was quick to add, with a touch of regret, “Russia will be left without its own airplanes.”

    Not exactly. In fact, despite Aeroflot’s move, Russia’s domestic jet industry actually appears to be making an improbable comeback.

    It was the Russian-made planes’ far greater fuel consumption that doomed them with Aeroflot, especially given the hard times in the industry worldwide. Aeroflot’s chief executive, Vitaly Savelyev, said the company was losing money on about 40 percent of its routes and that it would have to lay off about 6,000 workers in the coming two or three years, the Vedomosti business newspaper reported Monday.

    Over its history, of course, Aeroflot has had myriad problems. Horror stories abound, though statistically flying was as safe here as in the West until a series of recent crashes involving both Western- and Russian-made jets, accidents blamed mostly on pilot error.

    Ms. Tkachova recalled one white-knuckled take-off when flight attendants, posted in the aisles and looking out the windows, periodically called out updates to the cockpit about ice forming on the wings.

    Ms. Tkachova said she was so visibly disturbed that a flight attendant later gave her gum, to help her calm down.

    Irina Danenberg, Aeroflot’s spokeswoman, said Aeroflot was selling its Tu-154 jets because they burned so much fuel compared with Western planes, not because of safety concerns. The Soviet legacy is “completely irrelevant” today, Nikolai Kovarsky, a Moscow-based business consultant, said of Aeroflot. “They’re extremely friendly, extremely professional. The service is impeccable. And they’re Russian.”

    Aeroflot now operates 26 Tu-154 jets that it is taking out of service and selling, in the process laying off cabin crews to help shed employees. The reshaping of its fleet is seen as a victory for the company, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has struggled to shed its role as a source of subsidies for Russian airplane factories.

    It is a trend in Russian aviation. For now, the Tu-154 and a smaller variant, the Tu-134, remain the most common passenger airplane in Russia, with about 600 in service. Russian airlines have placed orders for about 100 of the Tupolev factory’s newer replacement, the Tu-204. But there are just as many Russian orders outstanding for Boeing and Airbus airplanes, according to Airclaims CIS, an aviation consultancy.

    Aerospace is among the few competitive sectors of Russia’s economy outside petroleum. The absence of modern planes now is not, in fact, a reflection of the current state of the industry but of the postcollapse crisis of the 1990s — the lead time is long on new plane designs. After a restructuring of aircraft manufacturers in 2005, a new crop of Russian planes is expected on the market through the next decade.

    Aeroflot has placed orders for 30 new regional jets being built by Sukhoi in partnership with Boeing. And the Sukhoi superjet is also being marketed worldwide as a competitor to regional jets made by Bombardier of Canada and Embraer of Brazil.

    The Il-96, the last Russian model in Aeroflot’s fleet, still serves as the Russian presidential jet, though its reputation was damaged in 2005 when Vladimir V. Putin, then president, had to take a backup airplane home from a trip to Finland because the Ilyushin’s brakes had malfunctioned. The president of Ilyushin was fired after the incident.

    Worldwide, only 14 Il-96s are operating, including a model made for Cuba with a flex cabin that converts from passenger seating for Cubana de Aviación to a V.I.P. layout for presidential trips.

    Because Cuba retains ground crews trained to service the plane, the Il-96s can be flown more cheaply between Moscow and Havana than to European or United States airports, according to Boris Bychkov, the general director of the Moscow office of Airclaims, the aviation consultancy.

    Meanwhile, the disappearance of the Tupolevs from Aeroflot’s fleet, he said, should not be seen as a “blow to the image” of Russian plane makers. “We still have excellent fighter jets.”

  2. #2
    Senior Member cancidas's Avatar
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    traffic two o'clock two miles southbound flight of four C-130s

    Re: Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet

    shame... i love the Tu-134 and TU-154. the noise they make, is well music to my ears!
    it is mathematically impossible for either hummingbirds, or helicopters to fly. fortunately, neither are aware of this.

  3. #3
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    Re: Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet

    The IL86 amd IL96 looked like great planes.

    Apart from the TU144 (Russian Concorde), the other best looking plane they had was the IL62, that was the Russian VC10 and looked very cool and smart.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Delta777LR's Avatar
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    Poughkeepsie, New York, United States

    Re: Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet

    The IL-96 is a georgous looking plane, I wish they would fly to the US, that would be sweet..
    Sergio has been a huge Delta Air Lines fan since 1992!!

    Sergio Cardona

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    Senior Member sporky's Avatar
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    Re: Aeroflot Sheds Its Soviet Legacy and Turns to a WesternFleet

    The IL-96 is a georgous looking plane, I wish they would fly to the US, that would be sweet
    Aeroflot used to fly the Il-96 to SEA years ago. Believe they ended that plane sometime around 99'. Occassionally they would swap the Il-62 in as well. Those were true gas guzzlers with a great black trail.



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