The TU-204 obviously bears a resemblance to the Boeing 757, with which it is roughly analogous, however to my eye it is has a quite distinctive profile, which means it is hard to confuse with the US type. It may not have had the range of the 757 but in other respects seems to have been reasonably competitive, although no doubt constrained by its Russian engines. Certainly, when compared with other Soviet designs of a similar vintage like the IL-96 the TU-204 looks like it was a better bet.
I think there can be little doubt that if the Soviet Union had of continued it would have been produced in large numbers and seen service with Aeroflot and other Warsaw Pact state airlines. As it was it was thrust into a decentralized Russian airline environment the type was acquired in small numbers by a variety of new Russian airlines but its sales prospects were hamstrung by the collapse of the Russian economy and subsequent availability of Western aircraft with guaranteed support mechanisms.
There have been multiple variants of the basic TU-204, although many of them have not seen production. The original TU-204-100 and 200 baseline designs are broadly similar to the TU-214. The main difference between the variants is bizarrely that they are made in different factories both of which are independent of Tupolev. The TU-204-300 (or TU-234) is a shortened longer-range variant.
Interestingly there have already been TU-204s made in less popular scales. I own quite a few 1:600 scale Schabak TU-204s and more recently Herpa has produced 6 standard length TU-204s and a single TU-204-300 in 1:500.
Possibilities in 1:400
The production of fresh Soviet-era moulds in 1:400 scale has been widely panned by many who have questioned their sales prospects. In a traditional US oriented market I think this is fair however in a more diverse China and Europe facing sales market I think there is plenty of scope for a TU-204, especially if production runs can viably be kept at a few hundred a piece.
NG Models, HYJLwings and Panda have shown that this is achievable and the production of low use moulds like the ARJ21, C919 and Beluga XL suggest strongly that a TU-204 could be viable. Plus, it has the all-important Chinese operator heritage, albeit only a single aircraft.
Here’s a look at what could be made with my feelings about viability rated from low-high. I'll just stick to the standard length TU-204-100/200 and TU-214 in this post, although an Air Koryo TU-204-300 would be worthwhile (and I'd like Vladivostok Avia).
If Aeroflot ever operated the TU-204 it was for only a short period in the early 90s but several aircraft appeared in SU colours and Aeroflot always sells well it seems so I think all three of these are very viable.
Above: Prototype at Paris in 1991. DoD photo by JO1 PETE HATZAKOS [Public domain]
I'm not sure if Aviastar Cargo still use the TU-204 but they had a few for a while until recently at least. Given it is a nearly contemporary model and comes in the popular colours of TNT I think these would sell. They have both been made in 1:500 scale too.
Chinese orders in the end amounted to only a single aircraft delivered but basically if it's Chinese I think the large home market make it a good seller.
Cubana releases seem generally popular and they appear to still operate at least one TU-204. Another obvious high viability candidate?
Although it has stepped back from its orders for new TU-204s Red Wings still is the largest civil operator of the type. A contemporary release with a lovely scheme as well. Sounds like it would sell ok to me.
Now that's a livery!
The government operator not the airline portion of Rossiya. I've never liked the scheme much but it has been made lots of times in 1:400 on other types.
The Russian Air Force use a special variant, the TU-214ON, for Open Skies flights. Nice scheme and quite exotic. Probably sell a couple of hundred?
RusJet are a business aviation operator but people love the Aeroflot scheme so maybe this is a go-er?
Older Russian Operators
There are a collection of older Russian airlines that used the TU-204. These are mostly larger well known Russian airlines (if you know anything about Russian airlines) and many have seen 1:400 releases on other types. Some are more viable than others but in general I think they could all be made if production can be kept to less than 200 units.
For me these are the most interesting possible models and the ones I'd be most interested in.
Not the loveliest scheme but it has been made in 1:400 by Aeroclassics on TU-154s and they were an important airline to the Russian Far East.
For a while in the early 2000s Kras Air was one of Russia's largest airlines and I think there is scope for more releases than the current IL-96.
A major airline in the Moscow market and Russia - great livery too! Also the launch customer.
Another less well known but still quite major operator at the time. Great livery too and it has been made in 1:500 already.
Actually quite a decent sized airline in the 90s but not a great scheme and probably too obscure for most. They had a much better livery later on.
A more recent operator. Aeroflot's old charter arm is nonetheless a bit obscure.
I'll finish up with one of the few non-Russian operators. That might make it more plausible but frankly it is barely a livery at all.
Then again they did operate SU-EAJ in the colours of TNT for a while, which is a lot more saleable.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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