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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Hopes to Buzz Local Plane Market

For MTUkraine's Kharkiv Aviation Plant wants Russian airlines to adopt the An-140.
KHARKIV, Ukraine -- While Russia's aviation authorities wrestle with picking which regional jet will roam the country in the next decade, its southern neighbor is throttling up in a bid to break into the market.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian airline Aeromist-Kharkiv will make its first flight to Moscow with an Antonov-designed An-140 regional airplane. Meanwhile, the plane's maker, the state-owned Kharkiv Aviation Plant, is trying to persuade Russian carriers to fly it.

"In two years we will find ourselves in a situation when the bulk of today's regional aircraft such as the An-24 will be decommissioned and new aircraft will be needed to replace them," Kharkiv Aviation Plant general director Pavel Naumenko said. "We can offer this replacement."

Some 2,500 An-24s were produced, and during the 1960s, '70s and '80s they accounted for 30 percent of all air traffic in the Soviet Union.

According to Naumenko, the ready solution comes in the form of two Kharkiv projects -- the An-140 and An-74-TK-300 regional aircraft.

Developed in the 1990s, the An-140 turboprop seats 52 passengers, has a range of 2,420 kilometers and complies with international stage four noise restrictions, which will come into force in 2006. Three such airplanes have been built since production began in 1999 and are operated by Odessa Airlines and Aeromist-Kharkiv on both domestic and international routes.

The Kharkiv plant is also delivering assembly kits to Iran where a second plane is being assembled, with 22 more planned over the next six years. Overall, Iran may take up to 105 airplanes, Naumenko said.

Kharkiv also has its sights firmly set on the Russian market. While Ukraine can take 15 An-140s in the next three to five years -- the plant has firm orders from several Ukrainian companies -- Naumenko said the Russian demand for such planes stands at 100.

The plant recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr, which is interested in starting regional passenger operations with six An-140s.

Naumenko said that although the aircraft is produced outside Russia, it will not be slugged with import duties, thanks to an agreement between the two countries. Some 40 percent of the plane is made from Russian-produced components.

The Kharkiv plant plans to share production of the aircraft with Aviakor a Samara-based factory controlled by Base Element. Naumenko said both plants are negotiating to create an umbrella administration and set up a Moscow-registered sales company next year that will promote the craft at home and abroad.

With its second project, the An-74TK-300, the Kharkiv plant signed a memorandum of understanding with flagship carrier Aeroflot for 25 craft, and will provide a further 10 for other airlines, including St. Petersburg's Pulkovo.

China has meanwhile contracted two An-74s. The plane, which seats 52 passengers and has a range of 3,500 kilometers, is -- in Naumenko's words -- an interim airplane that can fill the gap in the market until Kharkiv is ready to roll out its other project, the An-148 jet. The An-148 can carry 80 passengers, has a range of up to 11,000 kilometers and is due to make its maiden flight in 2004.

Antonov would have participated with the An-148 in the tender organized by the Russian Aviation and Space Agency for the development of a regional jet, but as a foreign company, it was ineligible. Russian firms Tupolev, Myasishchev and Sukhoi -- in conjunction with Ilyushin, Yakovlev and Boeing -- are participating in the tender. Rosaviakosmos head Yury Koptev said Friday that a preliminary decision will be made by the end of the year, and the winner named early 2003.

Like Russian manufacturers, Kharkiv says its prices are competitive compared with those of analogous Western aircraft. The An-140 comes in at $8.5 million, the An-74 sells for $12 million to $14 million, and the An-148 will cost an estimated $14 million to $18 million.

However, domestic airlines say that even at these prices, the planes remain unaffordable.

Andrei Martirosov, general director of UTAir -- formerly Tyumenaviatrans -- said that in the current economic climate, the aircraft will recoup its purchase price if it costs more than $3 million. UTAir is currently in negotiations with Canada's Bombardier over the possibility of acquiring DASH-8 regional craft.