A Russian aviation design institute has completed initial testing of an Antonov An-2 biplane re-engined with a US-made Honeywell Aerospace TPE-331 turboprop engine and Hartzell five-blade propeller, in an attempt to cut operating costs and improve performance.

The Novosibirsk-based Chaplygin Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute began tests in February of the turboprop-fitted An-2, offering equivalent power to the aircraft's standard ASh-62 nine-cylinder radial engine, but with less weight and drag and using cheaper kerosene fuel.

The aircraft had a shorter take-off run, and was steadier and easier to control, the institute says. A video of the aircraft on test was posted on YouTube.

Earlier this month, Russia's trade and industry ministry said it wanted to get clearance from the government to modernise An-2 biplanes with new engines and avionics to save money by circumventing authorisation approval from the Antonov design bureau.

Russia has a chronic need for a new generation of regional aircraft to service remote communities in areas with poor road and rail links. Regional aviation has fallen into steep decline since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

This is not the first attempt to re-engine the An-2. Russia's Polyot produced the An-3 with a Russian-made TVD-03 turboprop, but the aircraft has only been built in small numbers.

The An-2, which first flew in 1947, is the most widely produced aircraft in history, with more than 20,000 built. It was designed by Antonov for numerous roles including crop-dusting, parachute training, light transport, local passenger transport and military roles.

Source: Flight International