Russian airline Rossiya has reported a steady improvement in the performance of its Antonov An-148 regional jets as the designer and manufacturer work to resolve the type's teething problems.
The St Petersburg-based carrier is an An-148 launch customer with six aircraft in service and an option for a further nine. Over the first five months of 2011 they have carried out around 2,800 flights, accumulating 6,000h.
At a technical conference on 15 June, Rossiya said its An-146s in 2011 on average were airborne for 250h a month, while one of them reached a maximum of 286h.
The carrier believes that operating these aircraft could be profitable if they are flown 10h a day, and expects to reach this mark before autumn.
"Both Antonov and airframer VASO have made joint efforts to remove the An-148 deficiencies experienced by Rossiya," said Yuri Ostrovsky, technical director of leasing company Ilyushin Finance, through which the carrier received the aircraft.
"To date, they have come up with nine maintenance bulletins and 100 technical and 'how to' solutions. One might say the type's major initial upsets are mainly overcome."
Last year, Rossiya operated An-148s on nine routes, with St Petersburg-Moscow services accounting for 77% of traffic. Today, it deploys them on 24 routes and has rights to fly An-148s to 30 domestic and foreign airports.
Ilyushin Finance has proposed adding five seats in An-148 economy class so that it accommodates 73 passengers.
"This should help enhance economic efficiency," said Ostrovsky. "We're planning to install an additional row of seats on all six aircraft without taking them out of service."
To address the lack of An-148 pilots, Ilyushin Finance is finalising preparations for certifying an ad hoc training centre complete with a D-Class training device at Moscow Domodedovo Airport.
Ostrovsky said: "We're taking account of operators' detailed technical requirements as we're negotiating an agreement with Rossiya to supply a further nine An-148s."