Russia's Nizhny Novgorod Sokol Aircraft plant (NASO) is considering restarting production of a modernised twin-engined variant of the Myasishchev M101 Gzhel single-engined turboprop, the plant's director, Alexander Karezin, said on 31 May.

Sokol is looking at a plan from the Myasishchev Design Bureau for a remake of the aircraft.

"The designer is considering a twin-engine variant with more passenger capacity and increased range and ceiling. If it happens, we're ready to consider restarting production," Karezin says.

The original Gzhel was the first high speed turboprop with a pressure cabin in Russia. The aircraft could carry six passengers, at a maximum speed of 232kt (430km/h) and could operate from the rough grass strips found across the country.

Sokol built only 15 of the machines between 2003 and 2009 because of a lack of demand. The plant is not considering restarting production of the original six-seat Gzhel, he says.

"The aircraft was developed from 1994 to 1996," Karezin says, "and has already become obsolete. But as part of the drive toward a plan for reviving light aviation, there is a requirement for an aircraft with different characteristics, capable of carrying 10 to 20 passengers in comfort. For carrying five or six people, there are completely different aircraft with a different level of comfort and service," he adds.

The new Gzhel is one of several aircraft aimed at the gap in the Russian market for a successor to the obsolete Antonov An-2.

Czech manufacturer Evektor has been considering licence-building its EV-55 in Russia, while Canada's Viking Air has plans to build the Twin Otter 400 there in cooperation with Russia's Vityaz Avia.

Source: Flight International