Irkut's Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft was put into service at the end of June by the Russian ministry of disaster relief. The organisation now has two Be-200s in operation with the third expected to be in service by year-end.

The deal between the Russian ministry and Irkut, signed in 2001, envisages a total of seven aircraft being delivered by the end of 2007.

The Be-200 entered into service following its successful participation in Kaliningrad 2004, an international exercise that took place in the Baltic Sea during June.

The exercise, which included representatives from Russia and NATO countries, was aimed at showing how international co-operation could work on handling a crisis situation, including a terrorist attack on an oil platform.

The Be-200 accomplished two roles - search and rescue and fire-fightng on the oil platform, said Irkut. A group of rescuers aboard the Be-200 reached the emergency area in 2h from the base airport and landed in 1m (3ft) high waves to offload a search and rescue boat.

On the fire-fighting mission the aircraft took on board 12t of water which was dropped on the fire at the platform. The fire was put out on the Be-200's second run.

Source: Flight Daily News