Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Quality of Russian and Chinese aircraft

 What are the considerations of buying aircraft from China or Russia? What is the quality and durability? Of course aircraft vary by particular model, so it is case dependent. But many circumstances present determine the ultimate determination.

 The ultimate last word is achieving an FAA approval. This would be meeting the various Air Worthiness ratings as listed here(the typical ones). If an aircraft meets these criteria, then it is definitely an aircraft built to recognizable standards. One other major consideration are equipment options. Now that there are so many co-produce engines and avionics, the playing field is leveled.

 Differences probably will be minor. And I find all builders wish to make a good product. As far as I know none wishes to sell substandard products. This is where misconceptions lay. These builders use the best local materials as demanded by whatever markets they cater too. You simply have to be quite specific about your needs and follow up on making sure it happens. And remember a fit out of interiors acceptable in the third world might not be advisable on aircraft targeting western flyers.

 Make no mistake, Russians in particular can outfit aircraft with very lavish interiors. Much more so then I would specify. I'm sure the Chinese can as well. It will come down to what YOU require. What you need to do is look for other reasons to buy their products. For instance what about terms? How about bulk financing. Can you seek marketing rights for the aircraft in your home market? How will spares and c-checks be handled? Can your financing cover multiple types of aircraft, perhaps even a few foreign ones to fill out your fleet requirements?

Of course you also have to check how your intended aircraft would fit into the local infrastructure. I find by mixing in western engines and avionics, Russian and Chinese aircraft are excellent choices. You just have to underpin their chance of success by providing capital and maintenance capacity.

 As far as any fleets of my own, no there is none......yet. From my point of view the transportation project is secondary to the energy and mining project. But in a perfect world I already know what fleet I will look into. About 6 AN-70's. 6 IL-114-100's 12 BE-32K's and 12 AAC Angels. The BE-32K's would actually be bought to help foster a possible new model. Much more attuned to Canada and flexible for multi-role use.

 Incidentally that is a niche problem the Harbin product faces along with the LET-410 and BE-32K. They do not come out to well against the Twin Otter. The LET and BE-32K both have potential to beat the Twin Otter. Actually it is a bit unfair to cast the Harbin aircraft against any of the other three. It is more in competition with aircraft typical of the South pacific(PAC XL-750, Super Caravans). It's sort of between all of them really though. The real killer against the first three is airspeed.


Anonymous said...

Hi M. Robertson,

Your new post depicts the situation regarding Russian and Chinese made aircraft very well. It is more a matter of reliability, serviceability, economic performance and maybe the most important elements availability of spare parts and manufacturer after-sale service. Chinese manufacturer have learn from the past mistakes, in my own opinion. for example, they are very supportive of the early generation of the Y12, at least in Africa. It is a reason of the successful sale of the Y12 in Africa. Speaking of the Y12, I invite you to check the new variant, the Y12F "Aircar". It is a whole new design going against the established aircraft of the 19 seats commuter aircraft category. I don't know where they are in the development but it did fly for the first time last year...

On the contrary, Russian manufacturer are strong in the military sector but very poor, if not totally absent, in the civil sector. Maybe the new Sukhoi SSJ100 will help change that, but it is more a culture of not backing up a product, it might be difficult to change that.

I think because of that lack of support and not necessary the "quality" of the aircraft because nowadays with the global exchange we experience in all industries, it is not too complicated to match different technologies (to prove that china is a big supplier of aircraft component to airbus for example), the westerners tend to not considered Russian or Chinese made aircraft which could be in certain case very good performer in specific environment. I live in the province of Quebec, so I am fully aware of the accessibility problems of the great north and the eastern parts of the country...

Concerning your fleet choice, the Il-114-100 seems to be a great performer specifically with the P&W engines and the western avionics. Uzbekistan airlines seems to like them and apparently they are very reliable aircraft... a defunct Russian airline named viborg used to fly them in environment similar to the Canadian north. So I think they can perform well in that environment. I have to admit that you made me discover the AAC Angels. I think they can keep up up there also. Honestly, I don't think people are ready for the BE-32K, it looks to rugged and "old style" for our western standard...but it looks perfects for the harsh condition and seems to be a great workhorse!

Overall I just think westerner overlook Russian and Chinese aircraft, for now, just like we did 20 or so years ago concerning Japanese cars, 10 years later Korean cars (remember the Hyundai pony?) and today Chinese cars...

It is not the same thing but it is the same appealing effect. If we look at things on a technical aspect and all that, I think they can sometimes compete with the west.

On the same thing, not so long ago some people where joking about jungle jets, today they run in line to fly them :) :) :)

great post M. Robertson!


Darren Robertson said...

I think the Russians suport particular projects very well. And some, well not so much. For instance Russians typically back heavy lift operations extremely well.

I'm talking about Ruslan and many humanitarian operations. As well as cases were even the Americans buy Russian aircraft for particular countries.

Then you get odd cases like the competition to replace the old AN-14 in civil service. Where the AN-28, Let 410 and BE-32 competed. The whole business was fractious and divisive. And in those cases it sort of puts off state backing to a degree. And each maker is entirely on their own devices afterward.

That's where the bad reputation comes from. Or states get in a tift and Russia pulls the rug out on projects. Think Iran. Who have seen both military and civilian projects stung that way.

Anonymous said...

Yes you're right some project get great support, strategic heavy lifter for example, and others no for example the IL-114 (now that the tashkent, uzbekistan plant doesn't make them anymore I guess it's other).
The Russian are betting on the Q400's with their new deal with Bombardier. let's see how they perform in the tough and rugged condition.

It will be interesting to see a heavy lifter as the AN-70 in a western world army fleet...
I think the Canadian army can benefit from one or two AN-70 to fulfill the heavy lift required by humanitarian operations. yes the galaxys are what they are but honestly they don't compete with the AN-70. but I think westerners will look at the new heavy lifters from airbus... although Embraer is working on a new heavy lifter too but nothing come close to the AN-70.

I just wish Russian could make up their mind and also push civilian project the same way they do with military one. we miss great products which can compete very well with the rest of the world.

Darren Robertson said...

Thanks Anonymous,
The great attraction of the AN-70 is it's unit cost. I'm not sure, but I believe it is in the $70 million dollar per aircraft range now? Compared to the C-17 there is not much of a comparison. It's outrageously expensive. It does not get any better on the A400 or any other offering either.
The bad part is the deafening noise of it's propulsion. Though if targeted at basing in a hard hit economically depressed airport for base operations, I'm confident exceptions could be secured. Especially in light of no comparable competitor.

I'm not a great fan of the Q400. To me it's more of a modern ATR. Which is not a bad thing. But they are marketed towards well maintained suburban and intercity routes. It's certainly not an aircraft for the out and out wild areas. Of course those exact markets exist in the former Soviet range too.

I hope they do not cancel the IL-114-100. That aircraft fits my needs fairly well, and addresses the Russian part of the order.

Anonymous said...

definitely, the AN-70 is the best cost effective solution compare to the C-17 and the A400. knowing the reliability and the ruggedness of eastern Europeans aircraft, I am convinced the AN-70 can sustain the most difficult environment...
Let's hope that your project take-off!

The Q400 is good but he is far from the simplicity of the Q100/200/300. as you stated very well, the Q400 and ATR are made for well maintained airports. we will see what the Russian will do with them in a muddy runway somewhere in Russia...

Me too I hope they don't cancel the IL-114-100. With the information I have been gathering regarding that aircraft, it seems to be a pretty good machine for this type of operation.


Darren Robertson said...

The great pity of the IL-114-100 is there is simply no other aircraft that will safely deliver 64 passengers to an airport of less then 800 meters. And yet the IL-114-100 still gives good range and performance despite the excellent STOL ability. It is truly an undiscovered diamond in aviation right now.