Having teamed up earlier this year on a project to conceive lightweight multi-purpose airplanes for passenger transportation, Russian and Austrian designers have recently revealed the first models of what they envision as low-cost 9- and 19- seat aircraft powered by two diesel engines.
Rostec (the Russian Technologies state corporation) and Diamond Aircraft signed the agreement at the Paris Air Show in June, although at the time very little was said about the airplane itself. Two months later, when opening MAKS 2013 in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev mentioned the project in his speech. “The use of new composite materials is centerpiece of the Russo-Austrian program on development of multi-role airplanes,” he remarked.
At the same show, Rostec (Stand 669) displayed two scale models. Referred to as the LMS-9 and LMS-19 (the Russian acronym suggesting “Lightweight multifunctional airplanes with 9 and 19 seats”), these share common wing, nose and tail sections, while differing in fuselage length through an extension plugs on the higher capacity model. Initiators and participants in the LMS-9/19 effort are Rostec, UZGA (the Urals Plant of Civil Aviation), Diamond Aircraft, RT-Khimkomposit (Chemical Composites) and TsAGI (the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute). The 19-seater has a large door on the port side near the tail; its exterior resembles the Dornier 228.
The new aircraft concept is based on the use of modern composite technologies in airframe manufacturing; a high degree of unification between the 19- and 9-seaters on components, subassemblies and onboard systems; and next-generation, highly fuel-efficient diesel engines. The airplanes must have low acquisition costs, which the Austro-Russian team estimates at Rouble 120 million ($3.73 million) for the 19-seater and Rouble 80 million [$2.48 million] for the nine-seater. Both should be able to operate in harsh climatic environments and use unpaved (soil/grass) runways in the conditions of limited ground infrastructure in Siberia, the Arctic and Antarctic.
The airplanes should be easy to maintain and have low lifecycle costs. Low-pressure pneumatics should facilitate operations from grass runways. Provision will be made for use of ski landing gear or ski/wheel combinations, or floats for operations from water. Certification trials are due to be completed in late 2016.
First Flight in Two Years
In a brief interview with AIN at the Paris Air Show, Diamond Aircraft CEO Christian Dries confirmed that his company is ready to expand cooperation with the Russians. “We are jointly developing future products with a considerable number of Russian engineers involved in the process. The work is active on both sides and involves some Russian specialists working with us in our locations and vice versa.” Touching on the proposed schedule, Dries said it would be two years before first flight is possible, followed by another two years to market entry. “These airplanes shall have turbocharged diesel engines that are able to use jet A-1,” he added.
AIN spoke with Boris Aleshin, formerly Russia’s vice president (2003-2004) and now director of TsAGI. “Along with other Russian scientific and research establishments, TsAGI is taking part in this effort. We are responsible for a good portion of R&D work,” he said. The key thing is the new technologies that will enable cost-effective mass production of an airframe made of composite materials, he added.
“Today, TsAGI is the front-runner in the sphere of critical technological solutions applicable to composite structures. This mainly applies to the infusion methods of baking such structures without the need for large autoclaves. We have amassed considerable experience in this field through the work done on the MC-21 next-generation narrowbody jet. We have been responsible for testing of all the wing boxes made so far,” he said.
“The infusion technologies are the main driver behind the Rostec-Diamond aircraft project. These aircraft shall have most of their advantages [over existing aircraft] through the extensive use of these new technological solutions. It shall allow manufacture of monocoque structures with built-in force-bearing elements, all made of composites with a substantial cost reduction in the case of a relatively large production run.”
Alexei Fedorov, formerly president of United Aircraft and now executive director for aviation programs at Rostec, said Russia needs a replacement to the long-serving Antonov-2, which was invented in 1946 and hundreds of which are still flying. “There are some people who want to give the An-2 a new lease on life through engine replacement. We think differently and believe that an all-new commuter airplane should be developed from scratch. It would use new, progressive technologies, with a wide application of composite materials and advanced powerplants. For the sake of making it, we have teamed up with Diamond Aircraft. Our common goal is to create a unified family of such aircraft.”