At a time when relations between Russia and Ukraine are at an all time low, an aircraft program may be the key to finding new opportunities for the two nations to work together. At Farnborough International this year there are two Antonov An-140 turboprop transports parked side-by-side on the tarmac. One is from the Ukraine-based Kharkov State Aircraft Manufacturing Company (KSAMC) and the other was produced by the Aviakor aircraft production plant in Samara, Russia. The latter is painted in the livery of Yakutia Airlines, which was one of the original customers for the aircraft.
The An-140 was developed by the Antonov Design Bureau in Kiev, Ukraine and is sometimes considered to be an all-Ukrainian product. But KSAMC general director Pavel Naumenko told Aviation International News that, “the An-140 is an aircraft on which the two companies–and two different nations–cooperate as partners.”
Having the two aircraft fly from two different countries to be displayed beside one another here this week may seem just symbolic. “But it really means much more in substance than many people realize,” insisted Naumenko. “It shows how these two companies from two different countries can achieve a near seamless transfer of design and production technology. This is a modern-day aircraft that–like the Airbus and other European consortium programs–can be produced at multiple sites.”
Where the An-140 parts company with these European examples is in its cost–both in terms of purchasing price and operating costs. “It is one point in our favor that the An-140 is a more economical choice than some western options, but in the present day when petrol costs are climbing to levels never seen before, the fuel economy of this turboprop aircraft over jet powered alternatives is perhaps an even more important factor,” stated Naumenko.
The aircraft is also starting to build up a sales backlog. Yesterday, the governor of Russia’s Samara region, Konstantin Titov, signed an order for 25 An-140s to be produced at the Aviakor plant in cooperation with KSAMC. These 25 will be acquired through the Ilyushin Finance Company, and while on a refueling stop on the way to FI 2006, Titov indicated that another five may be purchased in a VIP configuration–a total of 32 to be produced so far over the next five years.
Naumenko told Aviation International News that the other two programs that show great promise are the An-74T-200A and the An-148. The former aircraft won a tender in Egypt in which it competed with several western military transports–among them the Alenia C-27J and the EADS CASA C-295A. “We equipped the An-74T-200A with a new navigation and flight management system, new-generation cockpit displays and other modern onboard components and the results with the Egyptian customer show that we made absolutely all the correct choices in the configuration of equipment,” he explained.
The An-148 is a more recent design and one that Kharkov claims is needed by a number of customers. “There are still a large number of old model Russian aircraft like the Tupolev Tu-134 that need to be replaced immediately,” Naumenko said. “So we are pushing to get this aircraft through its flight certification paces and expect to receive that certification this year. Again this will be a cooperative program in which we will jointly produce the aircraft with another factory, but in this case the major partner will be the Aviant plant in Kiev.”
This program, however, may be a replay of some of the more recent problems that Ukrainian industry has had with its larger neighbor. Russia recently withdrew from the An-70 transport program in a decision that was widely seen as not being justified by any real change in Russia’s military airlift requirements, but was instead President Vladimir Putin expressing his indignation over moves by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to move his country closer to the west and into a more active partnership with NATO.
There were, however, several parties in Russia that also had a vested interest in the An-70 going away and the Russian air force continuing to pour money into the Ilyushin Il-76 fleet that made it easy for the Russian president to take this decision. The conflict that could come with the An-148 is that it will be competing for some of the same markets that the Sukhoi Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) design is seeking to capture as well.