With Superjet, Russia Re-enters Aerospace Race
Matthias Schepp writes in Spiegel:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has plans to turn Russia into a major player in the aviation industry once again — with a new jet and the help of Western corporations Boeing and EADS.
The names alone were enough to instill awe in competitors in the past. Andrei Tupolev and Artem Mikoyan, one of the fathers of MIG fighter jets, still ranked among the world’s best, were among the engineers who worked at the Soviet Union’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (ZAGI) on Moscow’s eastern outskirts.
ZAGI was once the birthplace of countless world records in the Soviet aviation industry. The world’s first multiple-engine aircraft built entirely of metal took off from the facility in 1926. ZAGI’s engineers set another record on New Year’s Eve 1968 with the maiden flight of the Tupolev Tu-144, the world’s first supersonic transport aircraft (SST) — two months before their British-French competitors launched their own version, the Concorde.
But the Russian passenger aircraft industry plunged into a dramatic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Orders from other communist nations suddenly stopped coming in, and Russia itself was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Soviets were building more than 100 passenger aircraft a year in their heyday, but production had come to a virtual standstill by the 1990s.
Last year the Russian aviation industry delivered all of eight aircraft — the same number Airbus delivers in a week.