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Airbus Moves Ahead of Boeing on Russian Fleet Size

The only foreign manufacturer to bring a passenger jet to the June 18 to 23 MAKS 2017 airshow outside Moscow, Airbus made use of the event in Zhukovsky to commit a public relations strike on Boeing by declaring that the size of its Russian fleet has surpassed that of its competitor.

Vice president Chris Buckley told AIN that more than 300 Airbus jets now operate in Russia, compared with Boeing’s market penetration of “a bit below” that figure. “We estimate our market share at roughly 52 percent,” he said. At MAKS 2015 the respective figures were 283 and 296, respectively. The U.S. airframer still leads in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) territory with 456 jets, compared with “about four hundred” Airbuses. It remains a mystery why Boeing canceled plans to bring a 737 Max, but the decision left Airbus as the only Western manufacturer with a commercial jet at MAKS 2017.

The A350-900, MSN002, also ranked as the largest and most modern passenger airliner to take part in the flight display over the Ramenskoye aerodrome. The slightly smaller Ilyushin Il-96-300PU quadjet carrying Russian president Vladimir Putin parked nearby, as though to show the close ties between Russia and Europe. Although the sanctions regime on Moscow has only stiffened since the annexation of Crimea three years ago, the BoeingAirbus duopoly continues to participate in Russian projects such as buying raw and machined titanium for in-production aircraft. In fact, on day one Airbus announced expanding the list of parts it buys from Rostec’s VSMPO-Avisma for the A350-1000. Buckley stressed that half of all titanium used in A350s coming off the assembly line in Toulouse—accounting for 14 percent of the airplane’s structural weight—comes from Russia. The ECAR engineering center employs some 250 Russians making computer drawings for the European manufacturer.

At the same time, Airbus considerably reduced the volume of aluminum parts it purchases from Irkut: its German arm ceased all purchases while the French halved pre-Crimean volumes. Various explanations for the moves continue to circulate, ranging from pricing up to deliberate political decisions. Although Airbus showed the A350-900 in Russia on three occasions before, displaying the product for the fourth time might have signaled to Aeroflot the manufacturer’s eagerness to complete an earlier negotiated order. The sides have renegotiated the original agreement, signed in 2007, several times. The customer reluctantly agreed to eliminate the -800 model from the original agreement, and focus instead on the larger -900. Aeroflot postponed deliveries, but around the same time it canceled a similar deal for 22 Boeing 787s. According to Aeroflot CEO Vitaly Saveliev, the flagcarrier is ready to take 14 A350-900s and possibly double the figure “later on.” Buckley expects the airline to stick to the -900 version, while not ruling out some limited order for the A350-1000. “We are showing the A350 at MAKS 2017 because it symbolizes the latest technology available with Airbus,” said Buckley. “Besides, we have a very good customer for it in Russia…Interacting with the media recently, Aeroflot […]

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