For many years, the renowned Tupolev Design Bureau has replenished the world's collection of the best examples of air transport with dozens of high-quality aircraft. However, it all ends someday, and the era of the Soviet aircraft giant seems to have come to an end. After all, their last car, launched into mass production, was created thirty years ago. However, her path turned out to be unenviable: the successful future of the promising aircraft was destroyed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "dashing 90s". All this is about the Tu-204 - a promising airliner that was simply unlucky with the time of its birth.
In the 1980s, despite the "fever" of the Soviet state, the Tupolev Design Bureau was not going to slow down. The design of new aircraft did not stop. One of the new machines, which was planned to be released before 1990, was the Tu-204 airliner. For those years, it was quite high quality and good, but the very first problem found the future "two hundred and fourth" at the development stage. The design bureau simply could not come to a consensus on how the new plane was supposed to look. And by the time the project was approved in 1986, the initial developments had undergone a number of changes.
The first pre-production aircraft was completed in November 1988, and it was only two months later that the Tu-204 finally took off. But time flew by inexorably fast, and this played a cruel joke with a promising project. The period of delivery of the liner to serial production fell on the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first, the most hungry years of the difficult 1990s.
The volume of financing for the aviation industry not only fell several times, they almost completely stopped. We can say that the aircraft was finally finalized almost on sheer enthusiasm. And this despite the fact that at that moment more than one Tu-204 was expecting to be "brought to mind."
The plane spent several years waiting to be remembered. And only at the end of 1994 the first technical flight of the Tu-204 was completed. But hard times continued to crush the promising airliner. The plane was able to make its first commercial flight only on February 23, 1996.
However, precious time had already been lost. By the time the Tu-204 entered the aviation market, Russian companies began to massively switch to foreign airliners such as Boeing and Airbus. Those who could not afford to buy foreign aircraft often preferred not to update their fleet at all, content with the time-tested Tu-154 they had, although, according to Novate.ru, the new aircraft was more than a third more economical than its "ancestor" …
Attempts to open the Tu-204 to the external market were also largely unsuccessful. And again the lost time and the historical context interfered. In total, only 16 units were sold abroad. Five cars were sold for operation to the Egyptian company Cairo Aviation - four passenger and one cargo. Three went to Cuba, six to China and two to North Korea.
A major contract with Iran could correct such a depressing situation. But all agreements were reduced to zero because of the situation in the world community. The fact is that the engines installed on the Tu-204 had American components, and the United States, which is in confrontation with Iran, prohibited the supply of technologies to this country. So, due to the sanctions, the deal was canceled.
All these failures led to a catastrophic drop in production volumes of the promising liner. The initial plans to build five hundred units by 2000 became impracticable: to date, only 86 Tu-204 aircraft of various modifications have been produced.
The development of the latest modification of the airliner - Tu-204SM, which is one of the most advanced aircraft from the Tupolev Design Bureau, did not save the situation. In this modification, even those few problems that were on the Tu-204 were eliminated, but even then, "the weather was not done."
To date, the production of the "unlucky" aircraft continues, but already piece by piece: Russian airlines, which finally switched to foreign airliners, show no interest in the Tu-204 and the main sphere of its operation is still state structures - the special flight unit "Russia" and the Military - air forces of the Russian Federation.
It is regrettable, but the most unlucky aircraft had the greatest prospects in development - the Tu-204 was supposed to completely replace the fleet of the aging Tu-154. And the aircraft's performance was promising at the time of its release in the early 1990s. However, these same rebellious years also ruined a promising car. According to most experts, the launch of the MC-21 aircraft into serial production, which is planned for 2021, will finally displace the Tu-204 from the domestic aviation market.
A similar fate may await the Tupolev Design Bureau itself. After all, the Tu-204 turned out to be the last aircraft from the bureau to be put into mass production. And although for almost thirty years several projects of different types were created at once, the prospects for these developments at the moment are very vague. Perhaps the whole point is in the same flow of time - the era has changed, and not all giants of the past are able to survive these changes. And, if the Tupolev Design Bureau will never be able to return to service, then the sad fate of his last production aircraft can await him - an early retirement.
In addition to the topic: Fatal "pickup" of Tu-104: how haste and stubbornness ruined the jet "Russian miracle"