St Petersburg-based carrier Rossiya is planning to firm an order for further nine Antonov An-148 regional jets, despite its recent complaints about the type's reliability.

Speaking during the Aviasvit air show in Kiev, Rossiya general manager Sergei Belov said the airline wanted to have 15 An-148s in its fleet. Since December it has received five VASO-built examples from leasing company Ilyushin Finance, with a sixth scheduled for delivery before 2011.

While acknowledging a number of technical deficiencies in the jets, Belov says they do not compromise safety and the airline is working jointly with the lessor and manufacturer to resolve them.

Antonov An-148
 © Antonov

"They only represent teething problems. It is a normal situation when you begin introducing new aircraft types," he says. "Overall, we're content with the performance of the An-148s, some of which are airborne up to 14h on particular days."

Rossiya says incidence of technical failure in its fleet occurred once every 344h in the An-148, every 5,355h in its Airbuses and 2,824h in its Boeing 737s.

To ramp up An-148 production in Russia and Ukraine, Ilyushin Finance has proposed to pool resources with Ukrainian counterpart Lizingtechtrans and other lessors interested in the project.

Separately, Antonov is cautious about revisiting the An-148's engine configuration despite having consented to assess the PowerJet SaM146 powerplant as an alternative.

The first 50 An-148s are to be equipped with Progress D-436 turbofans specifically produced for the type by Ukrainian engine manufacturer Motor-Sich.

Antonov chief Dmitry Kiva acknowledges that offering customers a choice of engines will enhance the type's marketability. But he adds: "You cannot know what alternatives could appear there. In particular, Motor-Sich is already working on a new turbofan with a 10-15% higher fuel efficiency."

Source: Flight International