Russian charter firm Jet2000 reached an agreement with Kaskol, Sokol and Myasischev, which jointly developed the M-101T Sokol (formerly Gzhel), to conduct trials of the new turboprop single on air-taxi services from Moscow Vnukovo Airport.
This makes Jet2000 the first commercial user of the business turboprop, which received Russian certification more than a year ago but has so far failed to win any firm orders.
“We are enthusiastic about the Sokol trials, although we do not expect to make a profit from them initially,” said Jet2000 chairman Leonid Koshelev. The company has applied to Russian civil aviation authorities for permission to operate the airplanes. The agreement with the Sokol plant, which builds the M-101T, calls for the “long-term operational lease” of two aircraft. Currently, the aircraft are being outfitted with new interiors as specified by Jet2000.
The initial phase of Jet2000’s M-101T operational trial is for 18 months. Early operations will be crewed by manufacturer test pilots until Jet2000 crews are qualified to fly the M-101T.
The M-101T will be offered for charter to cities within a relatively short flight time of Moscow, such as St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Voronezh. Koshelev, however,
is skeptical about the M-101T’s prospects as a corporate airplane since it has limited interior space and has yet to be IFR certified.
Jet2000 regards the M-101T as a turboprop supplement to its fleet of seven Western-built business jets, including two Falcon 20s, a Hawker 700, a Falcon 50, a Falcon 900, a Gulfstream 100 and a Citation III, of which three are Russian registered.
More than half of Jet2000’s air-taxi flights are to destinations in Western Europe, 15 percent in Russia and 25 percent in other CIS countries. It is the only Russian operator to offer a wide-cabin business jet (Falcon 900) in the Moscow air-taxi market. In addition, the company also manages several aircraft belonging to private owners and corporations, including a Challenger 601 and 604.
Also being managed by Jet2000 is a PC-12 operated on behalf of a Russian company.
“We are helping the customer and Pilatus with Russian certification for the PC-12, which we expect will be awarded later this year,” Koshelev said. After that, the aircraft will be put onto the Russian register, he added.
Jet2000 is looking to add large-cabin jets, including the VIP Yak-42 by virtue of its roomy cabin and low cost. “But we need to be sure the type will comply fully with Europe’s upcoming environmental regulations. That compliance looks questionable,” Koshelev pointed out. So far, only a handful of Yak-42s, hampered as they are by a low cruise speed and only marginal compliance with Stage 3 noise rules, have been converted into VIP transports for corporate use and air-taxi charters to Western Europe. “Conversely, a Tu-204 with a VIP interior makes economic sense,” Koshelev said, since the aircraft is less expensive than the smaller BBJ but can offer similar 6,500-nm range with additional tanks installed–sufficient to fly nonstop from Moscow to most destinations in the U.S. and southeast Asia.
Although Jet2000 is not considering the Antonov An-74TK300 high-wing twinjet for air-taxi use, some of its clients are studying the airplane. So far two VIP An-74TK300s have been completed. These were delivered last September and December to the Ukrainian government air detachment after being outfitted with executive interiors by InterAMI.