Antonov has boosted commitments for its 80-seat An-148 regional jet to 30, having secured deals from leasing company Ilyushin-Finance and airline Volga-Dnepr.

At last month's Farnborough air show Ilyushin-Finance signed a provisional agreement for 12 An-148-100s, which the lessor says is worth $216 million and will be firmed up by the end of this year. Also at the show, Volga-Dnepr confirmed its intention to purchase three An-148s for its passenger subsidiary, which now operates Yakovlev Yak-40s from Ulyanovsk and Voronezh to Moscow.

Other customers for the new twinjet include Ukraine's Odessa Airlines, which has expressed its intention to take two aircraft, and KrasAir, which has commitments for 12 An-148s and expects to place follow-on orders if the type meets expectations once in service. Ilyushin-Finance and Antonov are optimistic of their chances of meeting the Aeroflot requirement for up to 50 regional jets with the An-148. "We do not see strong competitors in the Aeroflot contest. All requirements that Aeroflot put forward can be met by the An-148," says the design bureau.

Meanwhile, the Kharkov-based KhGAAP production plant that was meant to be the major An-148 assembly site, is reducing its share in the project as it focuses on producing the An-140 and An-74. The Ukrainian government is expected to decide this year to instruct the country's second largest manufacturer, Kiev-based Aviant, to undertake An-148 final assembly.

Roll-out of the first An-148, which is being assembled at Antonov's experimental factory in Kiev, is scheduled for September, with first flight following in December. The first batch of five production aircraft is planned for delivery in late 2005.

Source: Flight International