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Why did Sukhoi remove the world’s largest aircraft project KR-860?

Facing many difficulties after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Sukhoi design bureau decided to build the KR-860 “Wings of Russia” passenger aircraft with the expectation that it could shift to the production of valuable aircraft. higher trade.

Russia presented a 1/24 scale model of the aircraft at the 1999 Paris Air Show. If built, the KR-860 would be the largest, widest and largest passenger airliner in existence. heaviest in the world.

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The design model KR-860 was introduced by Sukhoi in the early 1990s. (Photo: RT)

Sukhoi’s plan

According to Sukhoi’s assessment at that time, they needed a commercial passenger aircraft model to be able to reduce their dependence on contracts to build military aircraft, besides the civil aviation market in the early years of this year. 1990 is assessed to grow strongly from 9-12% per year. Therefore, the market will need large double-decker planes that can carry many passengers at the same time.

Aviation expert Alexei Vlasov said that at that time, not only Sukhoi but many other aircraft manufacturers in the world were also launching plans to produce large double-decker passenger planes. If Americans have Boeing-747, Europe has Airbus A380. Sukhoi felt that he couldn’t stay out if he didn’t want to be left behind.

Also according to Vlasov, Sukhoi and many other Russian aircraft manufacturers had to go through difficult times after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they needed a successful commercial aircraft project so that the company would not fall into ruin. produce. The double-decker airliner was chosen when this design was trending in the market at the time.

In order to maximize passenger capacity on the KR-860, Sukhoi engineers wanted each row of the plane to have at least 12 seats in the main cabin and 9 seats per row on the second deck. allowing the KR-860 to carry up to 860 passengers per trip or a total weight of up to 650 tons.

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The design of the KR-860 with each row of seats has at least 12 seats, the wings of the aircraft can also be folded to shorten the wingspan. (Photo: RT)

Along with impressive passenger capacity, the KR-860’s wingspan is up to 88 meters, requiring the use of a larger runway and hangar. So the designers decided to make the wing foldable and reduce the length to 64 meters.

The plane can reach a speed of about 1,000 km / h and a flight distance of up to 15,000 km. It also has a version KR-860T proposed for use as an airborne liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier for the Arctic regions.

Every detail is perfect on the drawing board, but in the end, why did Sukhoi give up on this project?

KR-860 is forgotten

The reason the KR-860 fell into oblivion turned out to be very simple because of the economic crisis.

To create such an aircraft, the company had to set up a whole new huge production chain that built the engine, airframe, own factory as well as a range of other equipment. Russia did not have the resources to pursue an ambitious project like the KR-860 in the 1990s. According to expert Vlasov, such a project required investment of billions of dollars and at that time Sukhoi could not afford to pay. .

According to him, Sukhoi could not start production of this aircraft because they did not initially receive government subsidies for comprehensive development. This is the reason why they abandoned the world’s largest civil aircraft project.

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Design model of the KR-860.

It is estimated that the world’s largest civil aircraft project KR-860 has a cost of up to 10 billion USD and is targeted to produce the first aircraft before 2000. Each plane is valued at 160-200 million. USD.

Disadvantages of a double-decker airliner

Although Sukhoi does not build its own version of the biplane, foreign competitors have brought a number of such models to market, among them the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747.

Maintenance costs of Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are very expensive. They also need a lot of time to prepare technically before each flight.

It took two and a half hours to prepare for each takeoff. It is necessary to disembark old passengers and baggage from the aircraft, refuel, check baggage and load them into the hold before boarding new passengers. It all takes a lot of time. For comparison, the same procedure for a 200-passenger plane is about 40 minutes. Simply put, it is economically beneficial to manufacture smaller planes”, emphasized expert Vlasov

Currently, airlines are abandoning similar products of the KR-860, the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. The first Airbus planes manufactured in Europe 20 years ago have been cut to scrap. While Boeing 747 planes are being converted into military transport aircraft.

Alexei Vlasov believes that Russia has not missed any opportunities and even benefited from the decision not to produce the KR-860 aircraft. No investment costs, while the know-how is retained.

This expert concludes: “We produced technical documentation for the new-age aircraft engines that were later used in the construction of the Sukhoi military aircraft and the Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane“.

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