KrasAir has become launch customer for the An-148 regional jet after signing a firm contract with lessor Ilyushin-Finance for up to 15 aircraft, writes Vladimir Karnozov.

The airline has a firm commitment to take 10 An-148-100Bs on 10-year financial leases, and options for five more. Deliveries of the 68-seater, built by the VASO plant in Voronezh, will begin in the first half of next year and continue into 2007. KrasAir general director Boris Abramovich says that the options will likely to be exercised as the higher-weight, longer-range An-148-100E model.

KrasAir takes over launch customer status from fellow Russian carrier Pulkovo, which signed a letter of intent for 18 An-148-100Bs in January. KrasAir says it initiated talks with Ilyushin-Finance and will be eligible for launch customer discounts.

Meanwhile, KrasAir has placed an Ilyushin Il-96-300 on operating lease with Cuban carrier Cubana. The aircraft is one of three Il-96-300s operated by Domodedovo Airlines, in which KrasAir has purchased a controlling stake.

Source: Flight International