BetaAir's new Beriev-designed twin-jet amphibian is generating interest for its maritime patrol and fire-fighting potential VLADIMIR KARNOZOV / MOSCOW

Beriev's Be-200 twin jet amphibian has completed the first stage of its test programme, proving the company's design targets for flight and sea-going performance. The aircraft has logged 277 hours in 196 flights from runways and 74 from water. The only flying prototype is now being upgraded at Beriev's Taganrog experimental aircraft factory, including the replacement of some analogue systems with digital units. The aircraft will resume flying on 25 June.

The prototype has completed 277h during the certification programme with the aim of getting Russian AP-25 type certification by the end of this year. It has also logged over 30h in demonstration flights at air shows. "This stage of the flight tests was uneventful. The aircraft represents a scaled-down variant of the A-40 Albatross that underwent state acceptation trials," says an official at BetaAir, a joint venture founded to manage the project. Major concerns were the ZMKB Progress D-436TP digitally-controlled turbofans, the Aerosila TA12-60 auxiliary power units and the NIIAO/Honeywell ARIA-200 avionics suite, but these systems so far have performed well, the official says.

Although manufacturer Motor Sich has production engines available (the powerplant was certified in December last year), the development engines will remain on the aircraft. These engines have so far performed flawlessly during nearly 400h, including in-flight shut-down/start-up trials made with Beriev and GosNII GA (state civil scientific-research institute of civil aviation) pilots at the controls.

"We only once had a temperature rise above the norm during ground runs, which was due to a malfunction in the control system, and never anything abnormal in the air," the official says. Although more powerful derivatives of the basic 16,500lb-thrust (73kN) engine are offered - 80kN and 98kN - the BetaAir official sees no need for higher power for the basic model, but says an increase in thrust might be handy for higher-weight (43,000kg/94,700lb) passenger variants.

In April and May, Motor-Sich delivered two production D-436TPs to the Be-200 production line at the IAPO factory in Irkutsk. These will power the second prototype, intended for the Be-200ChS fire-fighting and search-and-rescue version for Russia's ministry for emergencies (MChS). Completion of this version is set for September. After certification trials, the first and second prototypes will remain with BetaAir for use as fleet leaders, demonstrators and for customer training.

After a four-year break, BetaAir re-started talks with BMW on its BR715 engines earlier this month, as unnamed Japanese and Indonesian companies expressed an interest in a Westernised passenger variant with 72 seats. BetaAir says that the engine attachment points were made with the BR715 in view, so only software changes in the Be-200's integrated flight management system will be necessary.

BetaAir is also talking to foreign investors, including Scorpion of Greece, in an effort to launch this version, while seeing no need to attract any outside investment in development and certification of the Be-200ChS. The effort is funded by BetaAir founders Beriev, IAPO, a Ukrainian bank and ILTA Trade Finance of Switzerland. With governmental funding accounting for less than 20%, the total investment so far has reached $190 million. BetaAir estimates that research and development and certification costs will come to $250 million. In January BetaAir signed a long-term agreement with Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, on a credit line worth $43 million. This credit was taken on favourable terms, the official says, to speed up work on the first batch of seven aircraft for MChS. The launch customer is to receive three Be-200s in 2002 and four in 2003.


Growing interest

China, France, Greece, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan have expressed interest in the Be-200, the official says. South Korea and China are looking at a maritime patrol version for surveillance of water borders, fishing and, possibly, anti-submarine warfare. France and Greece are studying a fire-fighting version. BetaAir is also talking to Russia's forestry service which needs a fire-fighting aircraft.

Beriev is studying the possibility of using some Russian-made avionics items, such as multifunction displays, to reduce its cost. With component prices rising, BetaAir says the target price, originally $18-25 million is now set at $25-30 million.

The Be-200 was tested on waters as high as 0.8m. More sea tests are planned to confirm the aircraft's ability to withstand 1.2m high waves. In a scooping run, the fire-fighting version took 12t of water in 14s. Scooping and precise water dropping technologies were developed on several Be-12 flying boats converted into the Be-12P-200 fire-fighting version. These were used in fire-fighting operations in forested areas of Siberia, where the aircraft demonstrated higher efficiency than land-based aircraft.

Beriev general designer Gennady Pan-atov hopes the Be-200 will restore hydro aviation's popularity with the travelling public. The passenger version of the Be-200 is expected to be able to carry up to 70 passengers, and Panatov says it will offer the same level of comfort as "a typical land-based passenger jet, while having similar fuel efficiency". If the market lives up to Panatov's hopes, IAPO can deliver five to seven airframes a year, with the capacity to raise the rate to 10-12 units. n

Source: Flight International