Antonov plans to fly its An-148 regional jet on 20 November, following the roll-out of the prototype 70-seater in Kiev on 15 October.

The second prototype is due to join the programme in December. Certification to Russian AP-25 airworthiness requirements demands 600 flights during 2005, leading to approval in the first quarter of 2006, after which Antonov will seek European JAR-25 approval.

"The Russian government is about to give its approval for the 2005-8 aircraft production programme that contains funding for construction of 24 An-148s for Russian airlines," says Antonov general designer Piotr Balabuyev. He adds that the Ukrainian government is to increase the base capital of leasing company UkrTransLizing to enable it fund construction of An-148s for four Ukrainian carriers.

Although the An-148 is yet to secure a firm launch order, leasing company Ilyushin-Finance is funding the construction of the first five series-production aircraft at the Aviant plant in Kiev and VASO plant in Voronezh. The lessor's general director, Aleksandr Rubtsov, says the initial five-aircraft batch will be delivered to either to KrasAir or Pulkovo, which are among four airlines holding letters of intent for a total of 40 An-148s - the others being Aeroflot-Don and Aerosvit.

Rubtsov expects the orders to be firmed up by the end of the year. "The airlines want to see the prototype flying to make sure its new digital technology is workable," he says.


Source: Flight International