Ukrainian airline AeroSvit launched passenger service with an Antonov An-148-100 regional jet prototype on a June 2 flight between the capital Kiev and Kharkov in the northeast of the country, replacing an An-24 and a Yak-42 previously used on this route. The 70-seat regional jet was the aircraft used by Antonov to complete certification, according to a representative from Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (OAK). Neither of the manufacturers chosen to participate in serial production– Ukraine’s Aviant and Russia’s Voronezh Aircraft Production Association (VASO)–has yet completed a production example of the high-wing jet, powered by a pair of Motor Sich D-436-148 turbofans.
Government officials took part in a ceremony marking the first revenue flight, during which Ukrainian minister for transportation and communications Yosyp Vinsky told reporters that plans call for the second An-148 to enter service by the end of this year. Antonov is displaying the AeroSvit aircraft here at the Paris Air Show.
Plans call for flights by a joint team of Antonov and AeroSvit, using two An-148-100B prototypes, UR-NTA and UR-NTB. Antonov handed over the first aircraft to state-run leasing company LizingTechTrans at the Aviasvit-XXI airshow in September last year. UR-NTB remains an asset of the Antonov design bureau.
The pair previously carried out a certification campaign completed in February 2007, when the An-148 won AP-25 type certificate from ARMAK (Air Register of Interstate Aviation Committee, an aviation authority of the Commonwealth of Independent States).
Honorary passengers on the AeroSvit An-148 first revenue flight included head of State Aviation Administration of Ukraine transport Aleksandr Davydov and AeroSvit general director Kostadin Botev. Ukraine transport minister Vinsky and minister for industrial policy Vladimir Novitsky greeted the return flight to Borispol.
“Today’s event carries very special importance for Ukrainian civil aviation,” said Vinsky. “Now we have a new challenge, that of building a worthwhile series of at least 80 An-148 aircraft that would serve our network of domestic routes.”
Antonov general designer Dmitry Kiva called the An-148 “the flying computer,” in reference to its cutting-edge design and high degree of automation. He called the aircraft a joint product of the 12 nations whose components appear on the aircraft. “We continue working on new aircraft,” said Kiva. “Work has started on assembly of the An-158 stretched version.”
The An-158, previously referred to as the An-148-200, will seat up to 99 passengers in a lengthened fuselage, compared with the maximum of 85 in the baseline An-148-100. Antonov estimates demand for 200 An-148s and its derivatives by 2015. The derivatives include the An-168 business jet, previously referred to as the Sky Cruiser, or ABJ. The business jet version would seat from eight to 41 passengers, depending on cabin layout, and sports a range of 3,780 nm.
“The baseline An-148 and its stretch version can work successfully on the carrier’s network of routes,” said AeroSvit’s Botev. He said that starting next month the An-148 will begin operating from Kiev to Simferopol, Lvov and Donetsk. Established in 1994, AeroSvit ranks as the largest carrier in Ukraine, operating 60 international routes, including transcontinental to New York, Toronto, Beijing, New Delhi and Bangkok.
AeroSvit and Antonov have signed a memorandum of cooperation calling for deliveries of 10 An-148s and An-158s from 2010 to 2012. The two companies also submitted a joint petition to the Ukrainian government for financial support of a business plan that calls for the participation of 214 firms (34 based in Ukraine) from 14 countries.
Firm orders for the type exceed 50 units placed by prominent carriers from Russia (launch customers GTK Rossiya and Polet), Ukraine (AeroSvit) and Kazakhstan (Skat, Berkut).
The two final assembly lines– in Voronezh, Russia, and in Kiev, Ukraine–reportedly stand ready to start producing airplanes. VASO is processing parts for the initial series of 34 An-148s and plans to roll out its first aircraft later this month. Meanwhile, the first Ukrainian An-148 is “almost ready” at Aviant, according to Antonov’s Kiva.