M-101T is first certified Russian business a/c

 - October 17, 2007, 5:26 AM

Zhukovsky, Russia-based Myasishchev has received Russian AP-23 type certification for its M-101T  business aircraft. The M-101T has a pressurized cabin and a single 760-shp Walter M601-22F turboprop driving on Avia V-510 propeller.

Myasishchev had nicknamed the aircraft “Gzhel”–a common Russian word for hand-painted porcelain as well as a village near the plant where the airplanes are made–but a controversy over the use of the porcelain manufacturer’s name prompted a decision to drop it. The turboprop posts many firsts: first Russian business aircraft ever certified; first Myasishchev commercial aircraft to reach civil certification; and first commercially funded Russian aerospace product.

The type certificate, harmonized with U.S. FAR Part 23, was issued by the Air Register of the Interstate Aviation Committee (Armak) on December 30, 2002. Armak chairman Anatoly Kruglov handed over certification papers to Myasishchev general designer Valery Novikov on January 14, together with a certificate for compliance to noise requirements set by ICAO Annex 16 Chapter 10 and Russia’s AP-36 (similar to FAR Part 36) Chapter G.

The 7,209-pound-mtow airplane currently has a 15-year/20,000-flight-hour lifetime, but this could be extended in the future. The engine, which has a 3,000-hour TBO, is a derivative of the Walter M601E found in the Czech-built L-410 twin- turboprop commuter.

Certification of the M-101T required 300 flights, and nine of the turboprops amassed some 1,600 hours in the air since the maiden flight on March 31, 1995. Of those, 460 hours were logged on 200 flights between 1997 and 1999 on five aircraft used for small cargo delivery from Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport.

On a tour of Arab, African and European countries in winter 1999-2000, an M-101T prototype flew 14,216 nm, logging 70 flights and 80 fight hours, during the trip to 26 airports in 18 countries.

The M-101T is the first civil project for Myasishchev, which previously built strategic bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and space systems. Started in 1992, the program progressed quickly by Russian standards, and a prototype began flying in 1995. Since then 13 airframes have been completed, including nine flight-test aircraft, (two of which were lost during flight testing). All 13 airframes were produced not by the developer’s experimental aircraft factory (the normal Russian practice), but by the Sokol production plant in Nizhny Novgorod to reduce development costs.

In the late 1990s the M-101T underwent considerable redesign after flight tests uncovered design deficiencies, notably lateral control problems.

The certified variant has a range of 595 nm (eight people on board) at a cruise speed of 232 knots at about 25,000 feet. Fuel burn is approximately 198 pph.

Like the Socata TBM 700, the aircraft can operate from grass or short strips since it has large tires and heavy-duty struts on its retractable landing gear. A standard production airplane costs $1.3 million with a mix of Russian and western avionics, including autopilot, weather radar, GPS and navcom.

The M-101T project is managed by Nors, which is responsible for production, sales and after-sales support. It was founded by Myasishchev, Sokol and privately held Kaskol group. Kaskol became involved in the project seven years ago, investing, together with Narodny bank and Incombank, in the aircraft development in exchange for royalties from future sales. Gradually its interest grew, and the group assumed leadership in 2001.

Kaskol holds shares in a dozen Russian aerospace companies, and is run by “New Russian” managers who have made money by investing in oil and IT firms. Last year Kaskol was chosen by Airbus as its major partner in Russia, and the sides have established a joint engineering center in Moscow and started “trial production” of Airbus parts at the Sokol plant.

Kaskol chairman Sergei Nedoroslev believes that the M-101T has a niche market potential as a corporate transport flying in remote regions of Russia for large national oil companies and other potential clients. “There are quite a few places in Siberia with poor transport links, especially in the winter. The M-101T will be able to fly these missions.” He expects sales to be well above 100. Other CIS countries, notably Ukraine and Kazakhstan, can add to that number.

This view is shared by Sergei Sutulov, deputy general director of Russia’s second-largest passenger airline and ex-general director of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. “Out of 436 listed Russian airports, only about 60 have kept their runways in good shape. The M-101T, able to operate from rough runways or grass strips, can prove a niche market product,” he said. Sibir is evaluating the aircraft for low-density passenger airlines linking its main base in Siberia’s largest city of Novosibirsk with small towns and villages. Another important market could be state agencies: Russian and CIS ministries of emergencies, health and defense and state forest services.

Russia will be “the launch market.” So far no Western aircraft in the M-101T’s class have penetrated the CIS market. Nedoroslev explained that this stems not from a lack of interest, but from the high costs to establish an after-sales support system in the CIS, with its formidable distances, borders and administrative barriers. “As a Russian company, we are in a far better position. We have the developer and the manufacturer within easy reach for CIS operators.” Support centers in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod are now operational, with plans for establishing new centers in Krasnoyarsk, Novokuz-netsk and Ulan-Ude, where Kaskol has interests in other companies where it is a shareholder.

Sokol has already made parts for 13 aircraft, including the nine operable prototypes. All seven surviving airplanes will be upgraded to the certified standard and will be sold to customers. Metal is being cut on a second production batch of 25 airframes, according to plant general director Mikhail Shibaev.