First Antonov An-148s to debut in Kazakhstan next month

 - December 19, 2006, 11:14 AM

Antonov An-148 launch customer Scat Airlines of Kazakhstan will take its first two airplanes next month, if Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich’s declarations during an official state visit with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev last month prove accurate. During ceremonies in the Kazakh capital Astana, the Ukrainian delegation presented their hosts with a model of the 80-seat twinjet. At press time officials from Antonov hadn’t yet given word on the status of the Ukrainian regional jet’s certification status, however, despite their expectation a month earlier that approvals would come by the end of last year.

Although one of the An-148’s largest customers with seven airplanes on order, Kazakhstan seemed one of the program’s least receptive prospects when early in the sales campaign Nazarbayev likened the Progress D436-148-powered jet to a Soviet-era automobile. The political winds have shifted since then, however, as the two countries explore possible nuclear energy cooperation and the transportation of Kazakh oil through Ukraine’s pipeline that runs between Odessa and Brody, near the Polish border.

Together, Ukraine’s Aviant and VASO of Voronezh, Russia, have started building seven production airplanes. In all, Scat expects to take delivery of three airplanes this year, two next year and a final pair in 2009.

Other contracts include firm orders with Ilyushin Finance covering a total of 18 airplanes due for delivery later this year to lease customers Krasair of Russia, which plans to take 10, and Pulkovo Aviation, which signed a firm deal for eight. Krasair and Pulkovo also hold options on five and 10 airplanes, respectively. 

Despite political tension between elements within the Russian and Ukrainian governments and VASO’s participation in the Russian Superjet project, a direct rival to the An-148, Antonov’s agreements with its Russian partners remain in effect, according to Antonov officials. Not only has Antonov granted VASO a license to assemble the airplanes in Voronezh, the Russian manufacturer also supplies the An-148’s tail section, rear fuselage, engine pylons and high-lift devices.