Rossiya plans to take more An-148s despite problems

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St Petersburg-based carrier Rossiya is planning to firm an order for further nine Antonov An-148 regional jets, despite its recent complaints about the type's reliability.

Speaking during the Aviasvit air show in Kiev, Rossiya general manager Sergei Belov said the airline wanted to have 15 An-148s in its fleet. Since last December it has received five Russian-built examples from leasing company Ilyushin Finance with a sixth scheduled for delivery before 2011.

While acknowledging a number of technical deficiencies in the jets, Belov says they do not compromise safety and the airline is working jointly with the lessor and manufacturer to resolve them.

"They only represent teething problems. It is a normal situation when you begin introducing new aircraft types," he says. "Overall, we're content with the performance of the An-148s, some of which are airborne up to 14 hours on particular days.

"We've invited auditors to accommodate these aircraft to [IATA safety audit] standards and are preparing for operation on cross-border routes. There are no plans to stop using them. On the contrary, we want to exercise an option for nine more."

Rossiya tentatively envisages acquiring further An-148s over the next three years pending the increase in their serial production at airframer VASO.

Ilyushin Finance director Alexander Rubtsov says neither the lessor nor Rossiya is concealing problems surrounding VASO-built An-148s but both are confident of being able to cope with them.

To ramp up An-148 production in Russia and Ukraine, Ilyushin Finance has proposed to pool resources with Ukrainian counterpart Lizingtechtrans and other lessors interested in the project.