Five-abreast 70-seat version to be followed by 40-seater and stretched model

Manufacture of Antonov's An-148 regional jet has begun at the Ukrainian design bureau's experimental aircraft factory in Kiev. The prototype is due to fly next year, with certification set for 2004.

First unveiled earlier this year, the 40- to 100-seat twinjet project is a "risk-sharing" joint venture between Antonov, engine maker Motor Sich and production plants in Ulan-Ude and Kharkov. Other Ukrainian and Russian companies are negotiating participation.

Developed to meet the latest requirements of CIS airlines, the An-148 is an all-new airframe featuring a high-wing configuration with underwing-mounted engines. It is the first Antonov to be created using computer-aided design and manufacturing tools. The latest Series 5 version of the ZMKB Progress D-36 turbofan will power the aircraft.

Equipped with a five-abreast cabin, the initial version is a 70-seater, to be followed by a 40-seater and a stretched model. "We opted for two-plus-three seating that provides more overhead space and is more suitable for the 100-seat version we are considering," says deputy chief designer Victor Kazurov, who heads the project. A freighter could be created if there is demand.

According to Kazurov, the aircraft will replace passenger versions of Antonov's An-74TK series, offering a higher cruise speed of 440kt (810km/h), and improved fuel consumption and passenger comfort. It will have a higher cruise altitude of 41,000ft (12,500m) compared to 32,100ft for the latest Yakovlev Yak-42, the D90. The An-148 will be "at least 1.5 times more economical than the An-74TK-300 or Yak-42D90", Kazurov says.

Metal cutting has begun for the first prototype ahead of the planned first flight next year. Certification to Russia's AP-25 airworthiness requirements, harmonised with US Federal Aviation Administration Part 25 rules, is scheduled for 2004. Two flight test aircraft and one ground test airframe will be built for the certification programme.

Antonov is to submit the An-148 in the competition for "a new regional jet" launched by Russia's Rosaviacosmos state agency last month. It will compete for state funding with the Sukhoi-led Russian Regional Jet and, probably, a new design from Tupolev. Antonov recently reached a provisional agreement with Aeroflot to lease the airline 30 An-74TK-300s, which will be replaced later by An-148s through a deal which includes Russia's Ilyushin Finance and Ukraine's UkrAviaLizing leasing companies.

Source: Flight International