An-140 sales bode well for Antonov RJ

 - August 4, 2008, 12:24 PM

A growing order book for the 52-seat Antonov An-140 turboprop has stimulated engineers at Ukraine’s Antonov design house and the Kharkov manufacturing plant (KhGAPP) to accelerate work on the An-148, a new 70- to 80-seat regional jet scheduled for first deliveries in early 2005.

During June’s Paris Air Show, privately held airline Air Libya signed a $45 million deal to include delivery of five new An-140s, crew training and the establishment of a Libyan maintenance station dedicated to support of An-140s, An-24/26s and the Kharkov-built Tu-134s currently operated by the airline. Under terms of the contract, Air Libya will take the first An-140 next summer, and thereafter one every three months. The Libyans chose the An-140 because it is being produced in Iran, where two An-140s have already been assembled at the Isfahan-based HESA plant under a government plan to build 80 aircraft from Kharkov-supplied kits. HESA plans to complete four more aircraft this year.

Kharkov must also deliver six more An-140s to Ukrainian leasing group UkrTransLizing, including four this year. The state-owned leasing company has taken delivery of four aircraft, since placed with Odessa Airlines and Aeromost-Kharkov. A fifth series aircraft was sold directly to Russian engine builder MotorSich and delivered to its aviation branch in April.

Russia’s Ilyushin-Finance and unnamed European banks continue their negotiations on an operating lease package for the An-140. Forecasters place the Russian market at 100 airplanes, Ukraine at 20 and Iran at 105. Plans for next year call for an An-140 production rate increase of 50 percent. Kharkov already increased its personnel by 1,000 in the first half of this year, according to general director Pavel Naumenko.

MoUs signed with leasing companies and airlines cover 15 An-140s for Ukraine, 13 for Russia and six for Kazakhstan. Ukrainian manufacturer Aviacor–whose owner, Basic Element, signed an agreement with Kharkov to establish a joint An-140 trade house–plans to supply the estimated 100 aircraft to the Russian market. Last month the manufacturers reached agreement with the Samara regional administration on “special conditions” for commercial investments in the project.

Kharkov is also a key participant in the An-148 program. It has completed the wing box for the first prototype and cut metal on outer consoles. The plant is in the midst of building an An-148 assembly line. Russia’s Ulan-Ude helicopter plant plans to
establish the second assembly line. Both companies supply parts for prototypes taking shape at the Antonov experimental factory in Kiev, where workers removed the first fuselage from its assembly rig in February and the second last month. Antonov has also cut metal for the third airframe, intended for structural tests. It plans to roll out the first An-148 this December and fly it in March next year. Under current plans, the next two prototypes will follow in four-month intervals. Certification tests are expected to take a year, allowing deliveries to start in 2005.

Antonov continues to introduce changes as the An-148 design progresses. It shifted from the Motor Sich D-36-5AF turbofans to D-436-148s to meet upcoming noise and emission requirements. Derived from the Tu-334’s D-436T1, the engine is flat rated at 15,060 pounds of thrust for takeoff and 16,538 pounds at emergency power. Its lifespan covers 20,000 flight cycles and 40,000 flight hours. To achieve a seven decibel margin under Stage 4 requirements, the engine uses next-generation noise-absorbing panels, a chevron nozzle and an enlarged “screening effect” air intake.

An-148 designers opted for a glass cockpit featuring five 6- by 8-inch LCDs built by Russia’s Aviapribor. The main onboard systems are digitally controlled, including fly-by-wire flight controls, using technologies developed for the An-70 cargo transport. The An-148 will incorporate very few Western components, which are generally confined to some elements of the airplane’s Ukrainian and Russian avionics modules, including those for satellite-based navigation and Category IIIa landing capability. The decision will allow a list price of $17 million, attractive to Aeroflot, Odessa and Volga-Dnepr Airlines.

Designed to operate “on condition” with a monthly turnover of 300 flights, the basic An-148-100 will come in several mtows. All the variants share an airframe with a 94.85-foot wingspan and 96.17-foot-long fuselage seating 70 passengers with a 34-inch pitch or 80 with 30 inches in an all-economy five-abreast layout. The 10.27-foot-wide passenger cabin offers 6.56 feet of headroom at the central ceiling.

Antonov plans for sequence of design evolutions with incremental increases in range capability. First will be the -100A with 1,187 nm of range with 75 passengers, then the 1,943-nm -100B and finally the 2,752-nm -100E. The three variants will cruise at 442 to 470 knots, burning fuel at an average rate of 3,307 pph.

The heavyweight E version will then provide a platform for the E1, yielding 3,238 nm of range with 55 passengers or 3,777 nm with 40. The E2 variant would transport 30 passengers 3,939 nm or 10 passengers 4,695 nm, both applicable to all-business-class or VIP flights. Antonov has yet to decide on the exact dimensions of a shortened fuselage for long-range E variants.