Dubai Air Show

An-140 sheds its dowdy image

 - December 11, 2006, 8:49 AM

Most people know the Antonov An-140 as a Ukrainian airplane, developed and produced by the Kharkov State   Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (KSAMC). But this 52-seat twin turboprop regional airliner has assumed a distinct international character since its inception, attracting several foreign partners and customers–including a strong Iranian connection.

Right now seven aircraft fly in service in Ukraine, one with Yakutia Airlines in Russia, two in Azerbaijan (where two more are on order) and another pair in Iran as part of the joint production program at the HESA plant in Isfahan. According to KSAMC, the market in Russia alone could reach at least 100 aircraft over the next few years.

To date, Iran has been the main export customer for the An-140 and its business could eventually result in 80 to 105 aircraft rolling off from the production line at the Isfahan plant. According to KSAMC, “the Iranians have a good set of facilities and personnel to be able to carry out this program, but there have been some delays in the original plan for the An-140 coproduction, mostly due to some changes in the financial aspect of the program.”

KSAMC (Stand W600) has also given the Iranians credit for absorbing the Ukrainian design methods and new technologies presented to them in the An-140.

Design Changes

Some minor changes have been made to the original An-140 design, resulting in the current production An-140-100 model. These have resulted in about 160 nm more range than the baseline model.

KSAMC insists that today’s An-140 is far from a Soviet-era aircraft, but rather a modern turboprop in the same class as Western competitors. As of the start  of October, the An-140s already in service had flown some 230,000 passengers during about 20,000 hours in the air.

“As the first aircraft produced have entered service we have seen some marked increases in reliability,” said a KSAMC official. “In the period from 2003    to 2005 the number of hours    between any sort of minor defect–such as a seatback not working properly or other problem which does not have any impact on the aircraft’s ability to operate–has almost doubled from 28 to 51 hours. The average time between the forced replacement of any major components has been 200 hours or more.”

KSAMC now hopes to capitalize on the resurgence in demand for turboprop-powered airliners, as the need for improved fuel efficiency in the face of inflated oil prices tempers enthusiasm for regional jets. A pair of Progress TB2-117BMA-SBM1 engines powers the An-140-100.