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Russia to start producing passenger planes that can’t carry passengers

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The Baikal, a light single-engine passenger plane to be built in Russia, will not be able to carry passengers, according to a report from newspaper Izvestia citing a source in the Aurora airline in Russia’s Far East, which is to be supplied with the aircraft. The first Baikal planes (LMS-901) to be produced in 2025 will be used only for air-based utility operations, such as forest protection or sanitary aviation flights. Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has reported that work on the aircraft is proceeding according to schedule, with the plane in line to be certified in its basic configuration at the end of this year.

An independent aviation expert, speaking to The Insider on conditions of anonymity, said that some planes had to be delivered on time for reporting purposes, but in reality Russia has not developed a domestic engine and is forced to use foreign-made motors. The supply of the latter is low, meaning there are not enough engines available to ensure passenger traffic on the Baikal.

“There is no domestic engine for this aircraft. The VK-800S [engine] does not exist yet, it’s just being developed. It’s clear that the testing and certification of the engine are still a long way off. It [the aircraft] is now equipped with the General Electric H80-200, which is an updated version of the Czech Walter 601. The propeller is also Canadian or US-made. The avionics equipment are from Garmin and Honeywell, as [the plane] does not have its own [Russian-made] avionics. Most likely, the previously purchased avionics, propellers and engines are not enough to start supplying aircraft in such quantities that they can start carrying passengers. The number of planes is enough to do the work of forest protection and agricultural aviation. And in order to have something to report on, they will make a few planes, hand them over to Aurora and say: ‘Look, we made a new plane to replace the An-2,’ and then they’ll either make their own as quickly as possible, or look for ways to circumvent sanctions and get all the foreign components.”

The expert pointed out that the Baikal’s fuel efficiency has not yet been calculated, adding that fuel efficiency figures varying significantly between passenger aircraft and agricultural planes.

“The Russian aircraft industry sh*t itself even with a light-engine plane and is now trying to smooth out all the negativity in this way. As for certification, it is now being certified with a foreign propeller, foreign avionics and a foreign engine. Then it will be re-certified with all import-substituted equipment,” notes the aviation expert.

At the end of August 2019, the management of the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA) announced the start of work on the creation of a domestic nine-seat light-engine multipurpose aircraft (LMS-901) to replace the An-2. A company called Baikal-Engineering was established specifically for the new project, working in close cooperation with the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI).

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