Ukraine’s Aviant and Russia’s Voronezh Aircraft JSC (VASO) plan to assemble 24 Antonov An-148 regional jets over the next two-and-a-half years, Aviant director general Oleh Shevchenko told the Russian media last month. Production schedules call for delivery of three airplanes this year, seven next year and 14 in 2008.
Scheduled for certification during this year’s second quarter, the 80-seat An-148 has drawn orders and commitments for 91 examples, including 12 from launch customer KrasAir of Siberia. Fellow launch operator Pulkovo Aviation of St. Petersburg has agreed to lease 18 of the high-wing jets from Ilyushin Finance Leasing.
This past winter two An-148 prototypes successfully underwent a month-long regime of cold-weather testing in the autonomous republic of Sakha, one of the coldest regions on the planet. In temperatures as low as -52 degrees C (-62 degrees F), both airplanes carried out a full cycle of tests to landing gear, air conditioning, pressurization control systems, avionics, hydraulics and fuel systems. Along with engine and APU starts, engineers tested the stability of the propulsion engines’ gas dynamics and gravity fuel feed.
To meet Ukrainian and Russian certification requirements, test pilots spent 41 hours and 10 minutes in the air during 13 flights between the airports in the Sakha capital of Yakutsk and the far eastern coal mining town of Nerungry.
The airplane performed six high-speed landing runs, validated takeoff and landing characteristics and tested their engines’ altitude-airspeed performance. The pair of An-148s also flew a total of 36 hours and 27 minutes during their round trip between Kiev and Sakha, which included stops in Moscow (outbound and return), Novosibirsk, Yakutsk and Krasnoyarsk.
The An-148 project team has begun building five production examples, three of which it expects to complete by year-end. VASO will supply An-148s to Russian customers, while Aviant assembles the 80-seat jets for other markets. Iran’s HESA, which already builds An-140 turboprops under license, has expressed serious interest in a similar arrangement concerning An-148s.