Sukhoi's KnAAPO manufacturing plant, the Beriev design house and the Chinese government have formalised an order for 20 Be103 six-seat twin-engined amphibians, with delivery planned for 2005, writes Vladimir Karnozov.

Chinese certification is earmarked for later this year. The aircraft will be used by small companies for air tours and regional commuter operations to territories with reservoirs, says Beriev general director Victor Kobzev. The $20 million contract includes help with setting up maintenance and support infrastructure in China and crew training at Beriev's facilities in Taganrog and Gelendzhik. Setting up infrastructure and crew training in China is the top priority, Kobzev says, adding: "The Chinese want to develop tourism and follow-on orders are under negotiation."

Plans for a higher maximum take-off weight version of the Teledyne Continental IO-360-powered Be103 with turbocharged engines, initiated by US dealer Aerocorp, have been postponed until the company has built up sufficient demand, Kobzev says, adding that a search for a suitable Russian engine has been unsuccessful. The Vedeneev M-14/M9F series was found to be too powerful and does not meet modern environmental requirements, while the VAZ RPD-426 rotary piston engine "needs rectifying" following several in-flight shutdowns on experimental aircraft, Kobzev says. Meanwhile, Beriev is focusing on a modified version of the aircraft equipped with reverse thrust capability.

Kobzev says that under previous Beriev management, "too many projects" were initiated. He says: "We have slowed them down. We need to exploit the potential of the basic Be103 first and, based on customer feed-back, look at ways to develop the project."

Source: Flight International