Medvedev rebukes Russian plane makers after inflight glitch

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday scolded domestic aircraft manufacturers after his brand-new Russian-made jet had a problem with its landing gear mid-flight.

"Unfortunately, even the new planes built by our factories have certain problems and I have seen it for myself recently," Medvedev said grimly at a Security Council meeting.

"That is why there's a need to put your back into it instead of demanding money. There's a need to improve the quality of our aircraft," he said.

The Kremlin chief lamented that Russia had built only seven civilian planes last year. "That's of course a very bleak figure," he said in comments released by the Kremlin.

Medvedev's scathing criticisms can partly be explained by a technical glitch one of his presidential jets experienced during a recent flight, a Kremlin source told Russian news agencies.

"During the president's flight his plane experienced a problem with landing gear," the source told local news agencies, saying the plane was a Tupolev-214 jet.

The source said the plane had only been flown a couple of times before the incident. "We are talking about a fine new plane that costs around $50 million."

"It's currently impossible to use it. It's being gone through part by part at the factory to understand what's going on," the source was quoted as saying.

"The president of a great country will soon have nothing to fly."

Kremlin officials acknowledged in February that some of the planes in the state fleet were too old to fly and that the domestic aircraft industry could not keep up with demand.

The Kremlin property department has said it plans to acquire two Airbus planes in an uprecedented move by an administration that has traditionally limited its fleet to Russian-made Tupolev and Ilyushin jets.

Last year the property department bought two smaller foreign-made Falcon jets, officials said. Medvedev used one to fly to the disputed Kuril Islands last November, Kremlin officials said at the time.

© 2011 AFP

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