Antonov Flies New Airlifter; Seeks Civil and Military Orders

 - May 8, 2015, 7:27 AM
Seen here on its maiden flight, the An-178 is derived from the An-148/158 passenger twinjets. (Photo: Antonov)

The Antonov An-178 airlifter flew for the first time on May 7, taking off from Antonov’s aerodrome at Svyatoshin in Kiev, and landing at Gostomel, the company’s flight-test base to the west of the Ukrainian capital. The An-178 was accompanied by an An-158 chase plane during its uneventful one-hour maiden flight. A second An-178 is under construction.

The An-178 is the third member of a new family of twinjets, after the original 75-seat An-148 and its 99-seat derivative An-158. The first two are passenger aircraft. The airlifter version has a redesigned fuselage of wider cross section and a large rear ramp, plus a structurally beefed-up wing. It retainsthe D-436 high-bypass three-shaft turbofan engines from Ukraine’s Ivchenko-Progress (developer) and Motor-Sich (manufacturer). Their thrust settings, however, are different to cater for higher maximum takeoff weights.

Previously known as the An-148T, the An-178 is said by Antonov to share 90 percent commonality with the baseline An-148 on the powerplant; 80 percent on core avionics and systems (whose functionality, nonetheless, is expanded through software, various add-ons and enhancements); 85 percent on wing and empennage; 75 percent on forward fuselage section (the middle and tail sections are new); and 90 pecent on nose gear (the main gears are new).

The An-178’s advertised performance includes an 18-tonne cargo payload, or up to 70 paratroopers; a completely pressurized 16-meter-long cabin; cruise speed of 825 km/h (445 knots) and cruise altitude of 12,000 meters (39,600 feet). Range is given as 5,500 km (about 3,000 nm), and fuel burn in long-haul cruise flight is roughly 2,000 kg per hour (4,410 lbs/hr).

Antonov sees the An-178 as a civilian freighter as well as a military airlifter. It claims that “the airplane had been shaped together with airline partners from 15 countries around the world,” most of them probably current operators of the popular An-12 four-turboprop freighter. Antonov says it has collected soft orders and letters of intent for 100 aircraft, including from “Persian Gulf countries, among them Saudi Arabia.” Taqnia Aeronautics has been named Antonov’s partner in Saudi Arabia. According to a recent agreement, Antonov will perform development work to cater to specific Saudi requirements.

After the maiden flight, Antonov announced that Silk Way Airlines, a cargo airline from Azerbaijan, and a customer in China “signed contracts” for ten and two An-178 aircraft, respectively. The manufacturer said it is in agreement with China on co-production, although final assembly will take place at Antonov’s factory in Kiev. A list price of $40 million is quoted.