Ukraine's Antonov has flown a turboprop-powered modification of the vintage An-2 utility biplane, designated An-2-100, in a bid to rejuvenate the ageing design, hundreds of which continue to fly across the former Soviet republics and elsewhere.
The company says it flew the first An-2-100, fitted with a Ukrainian-built Motor Sich MS-14 turboprop, for an hour on 10 July.
The An-2-100 is also fitted with a modern AV-17 three-blade reversible propeller in place of the existing four-bladed AV-2 unit. The new engine and propeller installation is 200kg lighter than the original engine, while the MS-14 turboprop produces 1,500shp (1,120kW), up from 1,000shp in the original nine-cylinder radial piston engine.
Conversion to the MS-14 engine is priced at "between $700,000 and $900,000", says Antonov.
Demand for a turboprop engine using Avtur fuel (kerosene) is strong, Motor Sich says, in the face of rising costs for Avgas, which is no longer produced in the CIS countries.
Antonov sees a considerable potential market for the An-2-100, as there are over 54 An-2s flying in Ukraine alone, with around 330 more still flying in Russia and up to another 1,200 grounded there. Antonov says another 290 An-2s are flying in Kazakhstan, 143 in Uzbekistan, 89 in Turkmenistan, 82 in Belarus, 63 in Azerbaijan, 30 in Kyrgyzstan, 13 in Moldova and 4 in Armenia.
Antonov produced a turboprop variant of the An-2, known as the An-3, as far back as 1980, but the project gained little official interest and few were sold.
Russia, meanwhile, has pursued its own An-2 turboprop modification. The Chaplygin Aeronautical Research Institute in Novosibirsk (SibNIA) fitted a Honeywell TPE331 turboprop and a Hartzell five-bladed propeller to an An-2 and successfully flew it "for around 40 hours", the institute's director, Vladimir Barsuk, said in August 2012.
SibNIA claimed a significant improvement in take-off and landing performance and overall handling, as well as a reduction in empty weight.