Western aviation could be doing more Russian production

A Western company has bought the first 30 Airbuses converted into cargo planes by Russian aircraft maker Irkut. The announcement came at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK, where experts warn Boeing and Airbus are producing much less in Russia than they’d

Dutch leasing giant AerCap has become launch customer for Irkut’s A320 conversion programme. The Russian manufacturer’s won the contract to convert Airbuses from passenger to cargo. Carriers like DHL and Federal Express are expected to need 900 such freighters over the next two decades.

But air analyst Charles Alcock believes Russia’s making far less for Boeing and Airbus than expected 3 years ago, before the government began consolidating the industry into state-owned UAC. The Kremlin reportedly refused to expand Airbus production after parent EADS blocked Russian members on its board. Insiders didn’t deny that was the deal, and Christian Scherer, Executive Vice President of Airbus acknowledged that he was aware of that perception, saying,

I’ve heard that. When you put together joint ventures with partners it takes time to adjust.

The head of Boeing CIS shows off Russian-made titanium on its 777 chassis. But he says production of other plane parts in Russia is a quote “no-brainer”, preferring to point to the 100 Russian engineers and designers working on the new 787. Its worldwide President, Scott Carson, told Business Today the Kremlin understands it shouldn’t restrict its air industry.

One thing that we ask for around the globe, is that we have a fair and open industry in terms of how products are developed and marketed commercially.  My sense is that Russia is headed in that direction.

On Tuesday AgustaWestland signed up to become the first Western helicopter made in Russia. The Finmecannica subsidiary will produce up to 24 of these 139s a year at a new factory near Moscow. The boss of AgustaWestland says the company’s friendship with the Kremlin is important. With Sukhoi, the Italian firm’s the only foreigner to own a blocking stake in a Russian aircraft maker.

The fact Russia will produce the world’s most powerful medium twin-engine helicopter is helped by Finmeccanica’s relationship with Russian government. As the Kremlin takes closer control of the industry, foreign manufacturers in Russia will require more political as well as business skill.