US Forest Service reluctant to grant waivers because of lack of agreement with Ukraine

Liberty Group International (LGI) and California-based aerial firefighting specialist Aero Union are still pressing for approval of a US demonstration tour of the Beriev Be-200 despite the reluctance of the Forest Service to sanction the move.

LGI, a Delaware-based holding company and sales agent for the Be-200, teamed with Aero Union on the project early in 2003 after a US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management panel concluded the aircraft would be a candidate for modernising the fleet. The panel was formed in 2002 after a series of crashes involving ageing tanker aircraft fighting fires.

Together with Aero Union, the largest US-based firefighting company, LGI proposed a five-month demonstration of the current production-standard Be-200 with Ukrainian-built Progress D-436TP turbofans. However, as there is no bilateral aviation agreement between Ukraine and the USA, LGI says the US Federal Aviation Administration has so far been reluctant to grant the necessary waivers.

The group believes its efforts will be boosted next month when Rolls-Royce and Be-200 manufacturer Irkut are expected to use the MAKS 2003 Moscow air show to confirm development of a long-expected BR715-powered derivative. The aircraft is already fitted with a Honeywell-developed ARIA-200 integrated avionics suite and the Western engines will make US certification considerably easier, says LGI.

A feasibility study by EADS, Rolls-Royce Germany and Irkut suggests a potential market for around 230 aircraft in 25 countries over the next 20 years in passenger, cargo, utility, rescue and firefighting roles.

Source: Flight International