Angara looks to An-158 as first An-148 arrives

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Russian carrier Angara Airlines has taken delivery of its first Antonov-148-100E regional jet, under a finance leasing deal arranged by Ilyushin Finance and backed by the Irkutsk regional administration.

Angara, which accepted the aircraft on 30 October, becomes third operator of the type in Russia and second to operate the -100E version featuring extended range, at 4,400km (2,375nm).

The aircraft is the first in the market with an all-economy cabin, seating 75 passengers at 32in (81cm) pitch.

Angara has signed for five An-148-100Es, of which three will be delivered by the end of this year. The remaining pair will arrive in summer 2013.

In December Angara plans to commence revenue service with the type, initially from Irkutsk to Novosibirsk and Ust-Kut.

Early next year services to Khabarovsk, Yakutsk, Bratsk and Blagoveshensk will be added. Starting in summer 2013, Angara plans to commence tourist charters to foreign destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Tokyo and Seoul.

Registered RA-61713, the twinjet is the ninth An-148 built by the Voronezh-based VASO plant. It features some improvements to the baseline design following the type's three years of revenue operations. These include heating of doors to prevent their freezing in the Siberian climates.

VASO is also modifying the aircraft to suit operations in harsh environments - such as snow-covered, gravel and soil airfields with field lengths less than 1,600m (5,250ft).

Angara operates a maintenance division servicing An-24s, An-26s and An-12s using its own hangar at Irkutsk city airport. It plans soon to qualify on the An-148 and its larger derivative, the An-158. Angara already has over 50 ground crew members for the An-148 and plans to add 40 more by the time revenue flights open.

It also has 20 flight crew for the type including five captains. During 2013 the airline intends to achieve 200-230 flights per month.

Angara says it wants to acquire several An-158s to supplement the An-148s on routes to large cities. The carrier's regional fleet includes eight An-24s and An-26s.