Antonov points to 9 May for An-158 first flight

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Ukraine's manufacturer Antonov appears to have set a 9 May date for the maiden flight of its new An-158 regional twin-jet.

The An-158 is a stretched version of the baseline 85-seat An-148 aircraft. While sharing common systems and engines, the An-158 will be able to seat up to 99 passengers.

A spokesman for new Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich says he has discussed prospects for the country's domestic aircraft industry with engine supplier Motor Sich's board chairman Vyacheslav Boguslayev.

He adds: "Boguslayev has assured the president that the An-158 will be made airborne on 9 May."

The date is a national holiday in Ukraine, Victory Day, commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Antonov chief designer Dmitry Kiva suggested last year that An-158 serial production could begin in the first half of 2010.