Antonov hidden behind more than the Iron Curtain

148-photo-1 (Custom).jpgI was in Beijing last week for Aviation Expo China and on my last day at the show I was lucky enough to to meet the people at Antonov.

What amazes me about Antonov is that this company builds so many different aircraft types and, unlike other aircraft-makers that take nearly 10 years to get an aircraft to market, Antonov appear to be quick to the mark.

They are already producing a 70-80 seat regional jet, the An-148, and when I was in Beijing I was lucky enough to stumble across a story about Antonov starting construction of a new 99-seat regional jet, the An-158. This larger regional jet is due to have its first flight next year.

If it had been any other aircraft-maker we would have heard about this story months ago but Antonov seem to be more focused on building aircraft, than generating hype.

But I really do feel Antonov should do more to promote themselves. The Canadians and Japanese are out there selling aircraft that are still in the very early stages of development. The Ukrainians, meanwhile, are actually building the aircraft. They just lack the customers.

There’s no reason why the An-148 and An-158 can’t be selling better. Based on the product specifications I saw in Beijing. These aircraft are technologically advanced.

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8 Responses to Antonov hidden behind more than the Iron Curtain

  1. Gary Glover 1 October, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Why does this remind me of a two engined BAE 146?

  2. TL 1 October, 2009 at 11:56 pm #

    That’s a very good comment. I’d love to see (a photo will do) the An-148 at LCY with a suitably mis-encaption of “The Russians are coming” which is what one would expect from the usual types who assume Antonov are Russian rather than Ukranian.

    As to the main question of why the lack of PR in the West, I could hazard a guess that:

    1: There’s already plenty of competition in the West and it is a tough market to crack. Better to spend limited resources on high-growth/high-demand Asia market. I assume that they can count on long standing links from the old SU days too.

    2: After service support. This would require a substantial initial outlay and setting up from scratch.

    Logically going east should be the cheapest, easiest and fastest way to recoup capital, not to mention that significant build numbers will allow Antonov to rapidly work out any defects/add improvements to an even more demanding western market (Shiny!).

  3. John Price 2 October, 2009 at 1:25 am #

    Just what Hatfield had in mind when, years and years ago, they first mooted the 146. No suitable engine was available (or projected?), so they were forced to select a “proven” engine (from the helicopter world) which would “do” for a 4-engined version of the original project …
    The antonov take on the idea looks good, doesn’t it … All the best for its future.

  4. Andrew 2 October, 2009 at 6:26 am #

    Because it looks like a BAe 146?

    Leithen, you are exactly right. Of the “big 3″ in the east, Antonov has the biggest chance at service in the west IMO. The An-124 is already a regular visitor in the US, why can’t the An-148 be, too?

    Antonov needs to seek FAA certification on that thing. If somewhere down the line the Cuba-US embargo is abolished, they would be stupid not to. It would be perfect for Havana – Florida routes and stuff along those lines.

  5. Kinbin 2 October, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    @ gary
    the ‘devil’ in the BAE146 is in its engines (maintenance costs, reliability, LLPs, fuel burn).

    The aftermarket supply chain for parts, and engineering support becomes critical for an airlines’ operational effectiveness.

    I do not doubt Antonov’s technological prowess being applied to designing, building, flying, and certifying the aircraft. Its the entire infrastructure supporting the flight ops. Look at Airbridge Cargo (aka Volga-Dnepr) and their flying Antonovs.

    It appears that only the hand of Antonov is able to support an Antonov fleet.

    As such, international sales from Antonov is expected to be weak, not any different from the ARJ21 and the Comac 919.

    As for MRJ, they are well aware of the back-end support. Its getting the infrastructure in place that is key.

  6. Andrew 4 October, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    @ Kinbin, I see a lot of hope for the newbies in the market in the west. Carriers have become accustomed to BABE, so a “wall” between airlines and new manufactorers have formed. Behind it is the MRJ, ARJ21, SSJ, An-148, etc. The first three have confirmed that they are going after FAA certification. ACAC is even going after FAA cert of the -700, which they originally had no plans for (only the -900). Sukhoi wants to sell 35% of their jets in North America, and the market is definitally there, mostly for expansion. We lost a lot of carriers in the recession, so I expect a lot of start-ups. There is a HUGE market there.

    Now that that “wall” has been broken through with the MRJ, other carrers in North America will probably be considering the ARJ21 and SSJ. An-148 might have too many eastern parts for direct service in North America, but I would not write off Cubana service one day.

  7. Royce 5 October, 2009 at 5:34 am #

    The An-148 program gets press in the trade publications when it makes a major announcement (that’s how I follow the program, anyway), but until it gets EASA and FAA certification it’s really more of a local story than big international aviation news. Sukhoi’s Superjet gets a lot more press because it’s more of a hybrid western/eastern project. And as Kinbin notes, for commercial operators high quality after-sales support is critical to sell aircraft in the west.

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