Russia plans to upgrade the Tu-214 airliner

Narrow-body jet expected to test a cockpit with just two crew from 2026, without the need for a flight engineer

The Tu-214 jetliner, created by Tupolev in the late 1980s, has become very important for air travel in Russia since the West sanctioned the country due to the military invasion of Ukraine.

The aircraft is being put back into series production to supply Russian airlines with a local replacement for the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

The reason for rescuing a commercial jet considered obsolete by Western standards is the fact that the MC-21 (MS-21), developed by Yakovlev, still needs time to be certified in its variant with components supplied internally.

The new Russian aircraft has enormous advances, but depends on many Western suppliers, who are currently prohibited from establishing commercial relationships with Russia.

Tupolev Tu-214

The Tu-214, a slightly modified variant of the Tu-204, was produced in Kazan by KAPO. The manufacturer that is modernizing its plant to be able to produce a much larger number of the aircraft.

According to Russian media, Kazan’s production rate was just one aircraft every eight months. With the changes and expansion, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the parent company that controls KAPO, intends to be able to produce around 150 Tu-214s over the next 10 years.

Tupolev Tu-214 cockpit (Alex Pereslavtsev)

Cabin for two crew

And it’s not just that. The UAC plans to launch an upgraded variant of the Tu-214 whose main improvement will be a cockpit with just two pilots.

Currently, Russian commercial jets still rely on the presence of a flight engineer on board, a role that was phased out on modern Western aircraft several years ago.

According to Vadim Korolev, general director of Tupolev, a test aircraft is expected to fly in 2026 with the new cockpit, but the entry into service of the new version does not have a scheduled date.

Russia has already tested a Tupolev Tu-204 with just two crew members, the Tu-204SM, but it would not be possible to take advantage of the avionics as they are outdated.

Tupolev Tu-204SM (Oleg Belyakov)

The company is also expected to present proposals for a smaller capacity variant and also a freighter.

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Korolev was asked if the Tu-214 and MC-21 were not competitors, which he denied, stating that both jets are necessary for the Russian commercial aviation market.

To date, according to him, there are 11 firm orders from Aeroflot, out of a total of 40 purchase commitments. The first Tu-214 is in final assembly while panels for five other aircraft are in the manufacturing process.

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