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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China to Ink Deal for 5 Tu-204-120s

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China is expected to sign a deal Saturday to buy five Tu-204-120 aircraft, a senior Russian aerospace official said Wednesday.

No price has been put on the contract, which is to be signed during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, who arrives Friday, but industry sources familiar with the deal said it may be worth up to $160 million -- and even more in the future, with China also considering an optional contract for 10 more such craft.

"I think they [the airplanes] will be delivered in two to three years," Yury Koptev, head of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Koptev added that there are also plans to sign an agreement between the two countries on mutual recognition of the flight airworthiness of civil aircraft. The agreement is expected to open up the Chinese market for Russia, as its civil craft will no longer have to go through tedious and costly certification procedures.

The Tu-204-120, produced at the Ulyanovsk-based plant Aviastar, seats up to 210 passengers and has a flight range of 6,700 kilometers. Powered by two Rolls-Royce engines, it has a listed price of $32 million.

Koptev said that from the Russian side, the contract will be signed by Aviaexport. Aviaexport is in a marketing partnership with London-based Sirocco Aerospace International, an aircraft-marketing and leasing company that was set up in 1996 by the Egyptian company Kato Aromatic to promote the Tu-204 with Rolls-Royce engines.

In 1996, Sirocco signed an agreement with Aviastar and the Tupolev design bureau that gives it world rights to market and sell the Tu-204-120 with Rolls-Royce engines.

The deal with China is to be the second Tu-204 export contract. Sirocco earlier delivered four to the Air Cairo airline.

"This is a very important order for Russia and is a culmination of six years of work by Sirocco to adapt the aircraft for the international market," said Paul Duffy, Moscow-based independent aviation analyst. "It's the first time that a new-generation airliner has been sold on the international market. The four to Air Cairo were leased, and this is a sale. I hope it marks the beginning of a lot of good news for the aviation industry."

Alexander Savostyanov, spokesman for the Aviastar plant, said that since the first visit of China's civil aviation agency delegation in May, Aviastar has provided all the necessary technical documentation on the craft and is now ready to begin work straight after the deal is rubberstamped.