Moscow MAKS 2003: debut of two business turboprops

 - March 19, 2008, 6:52 AM

The Moscow Aerospace Salon, MAKS 2003, held in mid-August at the Gromov Flight Test Institute in Zhukovsky, attracted a dozen business jets and saw for the first time ever in Russia participation by U.S. Air Force aircraft (a B-52, F-15C/Es, F-16s, C-130 and KC-135) and daily flying by Italian and French display teams.

Among the several hundred aircraft on display were a dozen business jets, the largest of which was a Boeing Business Jet. Others were brought by Gulfstream, Dassault, Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon. An ATR 42 represented Western-made regional aircraft and an Airbus A320 was among the airliners.

While business jets were on static display, the Myasishchev M-101T, General Machinery GM-17 Viper and Tekhnoavia SM-2000 turboprops flew daily. The last two aircraft were making their public debuts.

With a price tag of $500,000, the SM-2000–a turboprop single with a low wing and retractable landing gear–is touted as an affordable transport for up to six people. The project began 18 months ago after a private Russian customer placed an order for five SM-2000s from Tekhnoavia. A privately held Moscow design team with 25 employees, Tekhnoavia was established 10 years ago and has since developed the SP-94, SP-95 and SP-55M sport airplanes and the SM-92 Finist utility aircraft.

To lower production costs, the SM-2000 was designed to use the existing Yakovlev Yak-18T tooling and equipment at the Smolensk facility, which assembles the smaller four-seat piston Yak. The SM-2000 has a new wing with metal skin, composite control surfaces and an all-metal empennage. The SM-2000 has oxygen for cruising at up to 20,000 feet, an anti-icing system, hydraulic landing gear, weather radar, autopilot and GPS. The aircraft can operate under IFR, as well as perform aerobatics.

So far two prototypes have been built, one with a piston engine and a second with the 750-shp Walter M601E turboprop. The turboprop first flew in August. The design target of 243 knots cruise speed has yet to be achieved. The demonstrated 216 knots “satisfied the customer, because it is a big leap from the Yak-18T’s 151 knots,” said Tekhnoavia chief Slava Kondratiev. Specifications call for the 4,630-pound-mtow aircraft to do 243 knots at 10,000 feet.

Under contract from Switzerland’s General Machinery, Tekhnoavia has developed the GM-17 Viper, a deeply reworked Piper PA-31P Pressurized Navajo. Before reaching agreement with Kondratiev in March last year, General Machinery worked with another Moscow design team headed by Eugeny Grunin. The latter built a full-scale mockup before bailing out of the project. Tekhnoavia revised the initial design before starting metal work at its Smolensk plant. So far two Navajos have been converted to Vipers, and a third is nearing completion. Taking to the air in January, the first aircraft had logged 200 hours at press time.

As part of the modification, the PA-31P’s two original 425-hp Lycoming TIGO-541 piston engines are removed from the wing and replaced by a single Walter M601E turboprop in the redesigned, stretched nose section. The reworked fuselage houses all-new avionics, hydraulics and an anti-icing systems. Some 248 PA-31Ps were produced between 1970 and 1977. Kondratiev admitted difficulties with obtaining original Piper documentation and GM-17 “proper” certification.

Under its contract with General Machinery, Tekhnoavia must deliver three Vipers to customers by year-end, after which a decision is expected on a follow-on order for 30 airframes.

The Viper offers similar performance to a Navajo, but range is extended thanks to the addition of tip tanks. The estimated price for a Viper is shown variously as $500,000 or $860,000, with mostly U.S. avionics, including weather radar, Garmin GNS 530 GPS/navcom/moving map and radar altimeter. Price for the new avionics is $50,000, and addition of an S-Tec 55 autopilot brings it to $100,000. Russian-made items include KB-96 artificial horizons, circuit breakers, 20NKBN-25 accumulator batteries and wiring. The Viper’s empty equipped weight, at 4,188 pounds, is 662 pounds below the PA-31P’s. The 7,275-pound mtow provides a useful load of 1,640 pounds with a full fuel load of 1,447 pounds. The pressurized cabin accommodates six people to cruise at 20,000 feet, at which the aircraft, with VFR reserves, can cover 972 nm with 1,058 pounds of payload at a 216-knot cruise speed.

Meanwhile, Tekhnoavia is preparing to be the first Russian supplier of turboprop aircraft to the U.S. Deliveries of SM-92T Turbo-Finist six-seat utility airplanes to Turbine Design are due at the end of this year. So far, 15 SM-92s have been built in Smolensk, including eight with M601E turboprops. This year the aircraft gets a higher takeoff weight (6,615 pounds) and larger Goodyear mainwheel tires replacing Russian-made equipment. The addition of tip tanks increases fuel capacity to 670 pounds, boosting range to 1,350 nm and allowing 14-hour loitering endurance. The turboprop version is offered at $500,000. This year Smolensk plans to deliver five SM-92s, and 10 next year.