Deal could pave way to international sales for Russian amphibian as manufacturer researches other configurations

Russian manufacturer Irkut is poised to make its first sale outside Russia, having received a letter of intent from US firefighting company Hawkins & Powers Aviation for eight Rolls-Royce BR715-powered Beriev Be-200 amphibious jets.

The deal, which calls for the first aircraft to be delivered in 2007, paves the way to a potentially lucrative international market for the multirole amphibian, which Irkut is keen to exploit through its joint-venture partnership with R-R and EADS.

Under the terms of the agreement reached last year, R-R and EADS will provide international marketing, sales and after-sales maintenance of the Be-200. EADS will also provide manufacturing support for the type.

Irkut has clinched seven orders and eight options for Be-200s from the Russian ministry of emergencies. The first aircraft, dubbed the Be-200Chs, was handed over in June last year, the second is to be delivered this month and the rest of the order is earmarked for delivery by the end of next year.

Irkut first vice-president Valery Bezverhniy admits that, while the Russian market is "very significant", sales prospects for the aircraft in Europe, South-East Asia and the USA are considerable, particularly following the suspension of Bombardier 415 production. Irkut estimates overall demand for the Be-200 to be around 320 aircraft within 20 years. "For the firefighting alone we expect a market in the USA for about 30 aircraft, in Europe around 50, and the rest of the world 130," says Bezverhniy.

He adds that France is expected to launch a tender for up to 15 firefighters to replace its Bombardier types, while the Italian government is leasing a Be-200 from May which will used in the firefighting role alongside its fleet of 215s and 415s. Irkut has scheduled European certification within 30 months, Bezverhniy says. In the interim the aircraft will operate under temporary permission. US certification is expected within 36 months, he adds.

Irkut plans to step up its market research into other Be-200 configurations, including coastguard, border patrol, cargo and passenger transport, development of which could lead to the establishment of new joint-venture partnerships, Bezverhniy says. Irkut is discussing a customised version of the Be-200 with China tailored for border control and surveillance missions.

Philippine carrier Seair has completed its first test flight of a Dornier 24ATT amphibian it plans to operate on charters to Philippines resorts. Seair chairman Iren Dornier says he flew the aircraft for the first time last week. He is the grandson of Claude Dornier, founder of the Dornier aircraft company.

Source: Flight International