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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aeroflot Inaugurates Simulator

On approach to New York's JFK International airport, a fire warning buzzer sounds in the cockpit of an Aeroflot A310. The pilots confirm the fire is in the No. 2 engine and begin going through an emergency checklist.

The engine is shut down, and fire extinguishers are discharged to smother the flames. The two pilots then bring the airliner down for an emergency landing, touching down on the runway with only a light thump despite lacking an engine.

With that, the lights are turned on, and the three journalists invited aboard to witness the near-disaster step out of the cockpit to grab some free drinks and last-minute interviews with the officials on hand for the inauguration of Aeroflot's new A310 flight simulator, which is installed at Aeroflot's new flight-training facility at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S.-built simulator, designed to simulate the flight characteristics of the Airbus A310 airliner, is the first of its kind to enter service in Russia, and was touted to the media Wednesday as a quantum leap forward in Aeroflot's flight-crew training capabilities, one which will save the airline an estimated $1.5 million per year.

For Airbus, a consortium of European aerospace manufacturers, the simulator is a key part of its sales strategy in Russia.

It is using the simulator - which it is leasing to Aeroflot for a token fee - as a sales incentive to encourage the national flag carrier to buy its airliners instead of ones made by Boeing, Airbus' U.S. archrival.

"The lease [of the simulator from Airbus] is linked to Aeroflot's acquisition of a certain number of aircraft," said Andreas Kramer, a senior Airbus sales representative present at the ceremony.

Winning Aeroflot's loyalty is important to Airbus not only because the airline has relatively deep pockets, but also because as the national flag carrier, it influences the purchase decisions of other Russian airlines, said Paul Duffy, an independent aviation analyst.

Indeed, Kramer said the simulator lease would not only help ensure the loyalty of Aeroflot - which already operates 11 A310s - but would help win new sales for the airliner in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Valery Okulov, Aeroflot's general director, told reporters that the airline was planning to sell time on the new simulator to other airlines in Eastern Europe and the CIS.

He said roughly 200 Aeroflot pilots would be trained on the simulator each year. This is about half the simulator's capacity, leaving the rest available to sell to other airlines.

Aeroflot spent $3 million training its A310 pilots at Western European facilities this year, according to a company press release, meaning that it could earn a roughly equivalent sum now by renting out its own upgraded facilities.

Duffy said Airbus' use of a flight simulator as a sales sweetener was unusual, but made sense for both companies involved in the deal.

"For Airbus, the A310 program is virtually dead because it is no longer in production, so they probably had some extra flight simulators sitting around. They are probably cleaning out the attic to make room [for a new generation of simulators]."

American technicians present at the ceremony said the simulator unveiled Wednesday had in fact been mothballed several years ago, but was brought out of retirement and upgraded so it could be used by Aeroflot.