West Siberia-based operator plans to add 25 helicopters and 10 turboprops to fleets over next five years

Russian airline and heavylift helicopter operator Tyumen Avia Trans (TAT) plans to upgrade its helicopter fleet over the next five years with 25 medium-weight helicopters.

The West Siberia-based operator has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kazan Helicopters for the Ansat light utility helicopter and is also evaluating the Eurocopter BK117 to add to its fleet of 18 Mil Mi-26s, sevenMi-10s, eight Mi-6s and 141 Mi-8s.

TAT's MoU with Kazan is for the Ansat, powered by two Pratt & Whitney-Rus PK207 engines and fitted with western avionics.

As an alternative, TAT is considering the BK117, the purchase of which would be dependent on the Russian government lifting a 30% import duty on foreign aircraft, which effectively prohibits such deals. Eurocopter would also have to establish a maintenance base at TAT's Russian facility in Tyumen and possibily offer some local assembly of the BK117.

TAT gets funding from West Siberian oil and natural gas companies, which have a 65% shareholding.

A further 25% of funding comes from the United Nations, which uses the Mi-8 on operations in East Timor, Eritrea, Sierra Lione and Western Sahara under contracts worth $35 million.

Meanwhile, TAT is continuing to evaluate the feasibility of using western turboprops for its scheduled network, which link Surgut, Khanty-Mansiisk and Tyumen with 20 smaller airports in West Siberia. Andrei Martirosov, TAT general director says: "Our fleet of [Antonov] An-24s and [Yakovlev] Yak-40s will be able to support operations in the next 10 years, but this will not prevent us from taking modern, more efficient aircraft in the near future." Up to 10 aircraft are required and TAT has been evaluating the Bombardier Dash 8 and the ATR 42. Martirosov says operational cost studies have ended and the company is securing subsidies from the regional government.

Source: Flight International