Bombardier has started seeking Russian certification for its Q400 turboprop, believing that there is a strong emerging market in the country for regional aircraft.
The airframer is keen to capitalise on the phasing-out of Soviet-era turboprops, notably the Antonov An-24, many of which will face restrictions from the beginning of 2012.
"We've started the process, put the letter in requesting certification," said Bombardier Regional Aircraft vice-president of asset management Rod Sheridan.
He spoke to Flightglobal at the MAKS Moscow air show, where the Canadian manufacturer deliberately displayed a 2005 pre-owned Q400, rather than a new aircraft, to highlight its ability to offer lower-cost used airframes.
"We've had some very good discussions with people interested in the aircraft," said Sheridan. "Most operators [replacing An-24s] will need to lease, they'll want the lowest lease costs possible."
The company, which has already placed CRJ200s in Russia, wants to avoid the problem it encountered during the sale of CRJ900s to Tatarstan, when certification was refused after the deal was completed, leaving the jets unable to fly.
It believes the Q400, which is approved to operate on rough runways and down to temperatures of minus 54°C, is ideally suited to extreme Russian conditions. Sheridan also feels the type could replace a number of Tupolev Tu-134s.
"The opportunity to use regional aircraft is huge [in Russia]. I don't think anyone's scratched the surface as to what can be done with regional aircraft," said Sheridan. "The hardest thing is getting people to utilise the aircraft properly. We see that on the CRJ; hours and cycles are pretty low."
While the airframer has obtained Russian certification for the Q300, it is uncertain when Q400 approval might be achieved. "If we have a couple of carriers sign up and say they're ready to go, they'll put political pressure on," said Sheridan.