Antonov’s latest transport aircraft, the AN-178, made its first successful test flight on Thursday 7 May and the Ukrainian company announced that Silk Way Airlines (not Silk Way West Airlines) is the launch customer and had ordered 10 for an undisclosed sum.
The 7 May test flight lasted for one hour and was from Antonov’s own airfield near Gostomel (Ukraine). The twin engine aircraft was flown by two pilots, Andrii Spasibo and Sergii Troshyn, along with flight test engineer, Mykola Sydorenko.
According to Antonov, the AN-178 has a capacity of 18 tonnes, with a pressurised cargo compartment, a digital glass cockpit and can use unpaved runways. Antonov also states that the AN−178 is equipped with a cargo ramp. The landing gear also has a kneeling system to reduce the angle when moving up on to the ramp.
No performance data for the AN-178 is available beyond its maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and comparisons with the Antonov AN-12, a four engine turboprop. The AN-178’s maximum speed is 121 knots (225 kilometres per hour) faster than the AN-12, but the fuel consumption is the same. Antonov is promoting the AN-178 as a replacement for the AN-12.
Antonov emphasises the maintenance savings of two jet engines, compared to the AN-12’s four turboprops, and the fact that the AN-178 has a crew of three, half the number of the AN-12. Silk Way Airline’s president, Zaur Akhundov, says: “This aircraft is universal. It is very attractive by technical characteristics. It is a very good replacement of the AN−12. We will actively use the AN−178 for cargoes transportation”.
As well as the Silk Way order for 10 AN-178s, on 7 May an agreement was signed between Antonov and Beijing A−Star Science & Technology Company for joint serial production in China and purchase of two aircraft. Beijing A−Star Science & Technology director general, Wang Hongliang, says: “We think that the AN−178 is a very good aircraft and it has big perspectives at the Chinese market. We are going to purchase two aircraft, and then to organise production of the AN−178 in China”. The week of the AN-178 test flight, Antonov also signed an agreement with Saudi Arabian firm, Taqnia Aeronautics, to, “develop and manufacture,” in Saudi Arabia the AN-132, described as a light cargo aircraft.
Production of the AN-132 will be under a joint venture and Antonov engineers will train Saudi workers. The AN-132 will be a development of the existing Antonov AN-32, which is a twin turboprop. The AN-32 has a payload capacity of 6.7 tonnes, a 780 kilometre range, a 270 knots cruise speed and maximum altitude of 26,000 feet.
Antonov, Taqnia and the King Abdulaziz City for science and technology, a government scientific body, will collaborate to give the AN-132 better payload, range and take-off performance.
The AN-132 will use US navigation equipment and flight deck avionics. Saudi Arabia will own the intellectual property and the engineering designs for the aircraft.