The Russian participants in the Antonov An-148 regional jet programme and Sukhoi, which leads the Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) project, are negotiating a joint marketing and production agreement for the two aircraft.

The move would see the VASO plant in Voronezh, Russia producing about 100 An-148-100 freighters annually by 2010, when the RRJ is expected to have reached full production status. The proposal is that once the RRJ enters production, VASO would cease assembly of the 75-seat An-148-100 passenger model – but continue to supply components to the main assembly line at KiGAZ Aviant in Kiev, Ukraine – and shift production to civil and military freighter versions of the An-148, dubbed the T and the M respectively.

The An-148 passenger model is to due to receive Russian certification in the second quarter.

Sukhoi confirms that VASO will produce RRJ components following the placing of an initial contract. The company says it is also considering whether to move the RRJ final assembly to VASO after production of the initial RRJ-95 series – the first of which is scheduled to fly in September next year – starts at its own KnAAPO plant in Komsomolsk-upon-Amur, Russia.

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCA) has secured 40 firm orders for the RRJ-95 to date – 30 from Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, scheduled for delivery in November 2008, and 10 from a financial leasing company. SCA director general Victor Subbotin says he is confident of adding more orders, and is hopeful of including western European carriers in the customer list. The company also hopes to finalise an order for four aircraft from GTK Rossiya this year.

“We are having talks with GTK Rossiya, Pulkovo, Scandinavian Airlines and SN Brussels and a number of other companies,” says Subbotin.

Meanwhile, studies continue of a stretched “RRJ-110” version, says Subbotin: “We are considering a 110 seat aircraft but the challenge is that it could produce a competitor for the 95 seat RRJ-95.”

Additional reporting by Helen Massy-Beresford

Source: Flight International