Russia seeks An-2 modernisation without Antonov approval

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Russia's trade and industry ministry is seeking clearance from the government to modernise Yakovlev Yak-40 regional jets and Antonov An-2 biplanes to circumvent authorisation from the original design bureaus concerned, because of the high cost.

"Problems have occurred with the Antonov designers," said Deputy Minister Yury Slyusar, at a meeting on the development of regional aviation in Novosibirsk on August 7.

"For any modification, we pay more money and end up more and more in a dead end," Slyusar said, adding that if the government approves the aircraft's modernisation, authority from the designers is not required.

"We ask you to support this request," he said. "It will allow us to modernise the plane without the authority of the Antonov design bureau."

Slyusar said modifying the An-2 with a new engine, avionics and airframe life extension "is a more or less economical and quickest route to meeting the existing demand" for a new light utility aircraft for Russia's regional air companies.

Development costs for modernising the An-2 could be as little as $500,000-$800,000 in total, he told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

At least 800 An-2s are still on the civil register in Russia, Slyusar said.

The An-2 was designed by Antonov and first flew in 1947. More than 20,000 of the types were built. The aircraft was used for numerous roles including crop-dusting, for parachute training, light transport, local passenger transport and military roles.

The Antonov design bureau is based in Kiev, Ukraine, now independent from Moscow.

Russia has a chronic need for a new generation of regional aircraft to service remote communities in areas with poor road and rail links. Regional aviation has fallen into steep decline since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.