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    Russia to launch production of Tu-334 airliner within 6 months

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    Commercial production of a new Russian short-haul passenger airliner, the Tu-334, will start within the next six months, the manufacturer said Thursday.

    MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - Commercial production of a new Russian short-haul passenger airliner, the Tu-334, will start within the next six months, the manufacturer said Thursday.

    Sergei Ilyushenkov, managing director of the Tupolev joint-stock company, said the Tu-334, including its business-class version, would be assembled at the Kazan aircraft plant.

    The project will be funded by a private investor.

    The executive said the airplane, which seats up to 102 passengers, was unique and had "no match either in Russia or elsewhere."

    He said the Tu-334 business version would cost around $43-44 million, compared with over $60 million for a Bombardier business jet.

    Ilyushenkov also said the Tu-334's range could subsequently be increased to 6,400 km by using additional fuel tanks.

    Work on the Tu-334 started in the early 1990s, but proceeded slowly due to funding problems. A prototype was displayed in 1995, but it was little more than a mock-up with few systems installed. A functional aircraft first flew in 1999.

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