The Australian government is in discussions with Beriev on using the Be-200 twin-jet amphibian for firefighting missions following the bush fires around Sydney late last year and early this year.

Gennady Panatov, Beriev general director says the company approached the Australian government late last year and received a positive response. Panatov says that "intense negotiations" are taking place with Australian firefighting authorities.

The Australian prime minister John Howard has called for a federal plan for firefighting resources. There are 28 different forces controlling their own budgets, with limited co-operation.

Beriev says deliveries are unlikely to begin earlier than 2004-5, but interim measures, such as the lease of early production Be-200s from Russia's emergencies ministry, the MChS, have also been proposed.

The Be-200 received restricted Russian AP-25 certification last August, permitting use only on firefighting and crew training missions.

Full certification of the MChS special-mission Be-200 is expected by the end of this year.

Beriev has also begun a US Federal Aviation Administration certification effort - initially in a fire-fighting role.

So far, the only airworthy Be-200 prototype has amassed 500h, with a second to be completed this year. The third airframe will be the first commercial machine, and is due for delivery to MChS next year.

Source: Flight International