There are 160 TU-154s deployed in the former CIS. The 160-seat TU-154 has been a stalwart aircraft serving across the region, in some cases for over 40 years. Russian news indicates the TU-154 fleet has been grounded. But the grounding most likely applies only to the state owned fleet.
As of 3Q16, 42 were in service, the remainder being parked. The aircraft is at the sunset of its life.
Within the active fleet, the Russian State had 15 and its 223rd Flight Unit had five. While airlines have mostly parked their TU-154s, the state has kept its fleet active. The state fleet does not have as many cycles as the commercial fleet. Even if the aircraft is old, it is kept at OEM spec and should be safe to fly.
The aircraft that crashed on Christmas Day was built in 1983 and was serviced in 2014 and 2016. While the rest of the TU-154s are likely to be brought back online once the crash investigation is complete, and the aircraft are all inspected, it seems likely that they will be retired soon. There are reports the doomed crew’s last recorded words allude to a mechanical issue with the flaps.
If the Russian state TU-154 fleet is indeed retired, the most likely replacements would be TU-204s and, perhaps, the forthcoming MC-21. There are only 52 TU-204s and of these the 31 in service average 12 years old. The TU-204 came out as the Soviet Union disintegrated and was built in small numbers. There were four in service with now bankrupt Transaero that might be available and these are only about eight years old. Even if the Russian’s were to replace the few TU-154s they have with TU-204s, it would be a temporary solution. Perhaps from the tragedy of the recent crash, there might be an opportunity for more MC-21 orders.
© 2016, Addison Schonland. All rights reserved.