Beriev Be-200 garners interest from U.S. firm

 - March 29, 2007, 1:16 PM

U.S.-based Hawkins & Powers Aviation recently signed a letter of intent to take eight Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR715-powered Beriev Be-200 amphibious jets from Russia’s NPK Irkut. At the signing ceremony, NPK Irkut President Alexei Fedorov said the Be-200 program “is achieving global recognition.”

Hawkins & Powers is considering using Be-200s for firefighting missions on the West Coast, with the first delivery to the Greybull, Wyo. company scheduled for 2007. The letter of intent has won the support of EADS North America and Rolls-Royce under a tri-party agreement. Irkut, EADS and Rolls-Royce signed a joint-venture agreement last year to cooperate on international marketing, sales and after-sales maintenance for the Be-200. Joint studies indicated a potential market for the Be-200 of 320 aircraft in 25 countries over the next 20 years.

The first production Be-200ChS outfitted for search-and-rescue operations went to Russia’s Ministry of Emergencies (MChS) last June under a contract signed in 2001 for seven aircraft. The second Be-200ChS entered service at the end of February and Irkut plans to deliver the third by year-end. Current schedules show the last of the Russian agency’s seven aircraft slated for delivery by the end of next year.

The first-built Be-200 for firefighting missions remains with the TANTK Beriev design house, in which Irkut holds a controlling stake. The companies use it for crew training and equipment testing, as well as flight tests to extend current limitations. In August 2001 the aircraft won national certification under Russian AP-25 rules, which are harmonized with FAR Part 25. In January Russian officials awarded AP-25 certification to the Be-200ChS, which followed provisional certification for training flights last summer. According to Beriev, the Be-200 has so far set 24 world records officially registered with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).

Meanwhile, NPK Irkut and MChS are talking with Russian leasing companies to help raise capital to boost Be-200ChS production at NPK Irkut’s IAPO plant in Irkutsk, Central Siberia. Leasing companies would buy aircraft from NPK Irkut and hand them over to MChS under financial lease terms–a plan hatched as a result of money shortages at MChS. If the deal falls apart, the timetable of deliveries will need to be revised, albeit without reduction in the number of aircraft ordered.

Irkut is also seeking ways to export Be-200s under lease terms, which it hopes would facilitate sales to France, Greece and other European countries in the market for firefighting aircraft.

Irkut is also talking to China about a special-mission version for aerial surveillance of its coast along the Pacific Ocean. It would carry surveillance equipment and a boat that could enable border guards to board and inspect suspicious vessels.