Sukhoi's KnAAPO factory in Komsomolsk-upon-Amur has launched assembly of an initial batch of four S-80 twin-boom turboprops following successful flights by the first prototype.

The production aircraft will differ from the prototypes in having a 1.4m (4.6ft) fuselage stretch boosting seating capacity from 26 to 30 passengers. Certification to Russian AP-25 national airworthiness requirements, similar to Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR25), will start early next year, requiring 900 flights on three aircraft, with completion in 2003.

S-80 chief designer Gennady Litvinov says the initial batch will be sold or leased on favourable terms to enable trials to be completed as quickly as possible. As yet there is no launch customer.

Development costs total $40 million, including assembly of two airframes, one of which started ground tests in 1998. Sukhoi is talking to Chinese, Malaysian and South Korean manufacturers on risk-sharing and licence production. The S-80 has also been included in industrial co-operation plans between neighbouring Russian and Chinese provinces.

The S-80 is priced at $7 million, but this could fall if General Electric CT-7 licence production is started by Russia's NPO Saturn. Cost made Sukhoi drop Rockwell Collins as avionics supplier in favour of local companies.

Sukhoi hopes the S-80 will secure up to 40% of the Russian market for feeder and regional aircraft, predicting sales of 350 aircraft to replace YakovlevYak-40, Let L-410, and Antonov An-24 and An-28 turboprops.

The company is optimistic about a new market for inexpensive surveillance aircraft, offering the S-80PD equipped with the Strizh integrated airborne surveillance system using radar, thermal and optical sensors. The S-80PD can be armed with guided and unguided weapons.

Source: Flight International