Saratov Airlines receives its sixth Antonov An-148

Saratov Airlines is subleasing the An-148 from Rossiya Airlines Until it enters service in 2018, the airliner will be used as a parts donor for the carrier's other examples of the type (Ruslan Denisov / Saratov Airlines)

Russian carrier Saratov Airlines has taken on lease another Antonov An-148 regional airliner, which will be the sixth of the type in the operator’s fleet. The aircraft has already been ferried to the airline’s home base at Saratov. Like the previous five An-148s, the new arrival (RA-61702) is being subleased from Rossiya Airlines.

“The expansion of our An-148 fleet is driven by the growing traffic volumes we have been registering since the beginning of 2017,” says CEO Alexey Vakhromeyev. “We have launched new destinations, so our traffic will have increased 1.5-2 times this year compared to 2016. In order to be prepared for future growth, which is forecast to continue in 2018, we have made a decision to lease our sixth An-148.”

The airliner will enter service with the operator early next year. The airline says it leased the aircraft well beforehand its intended service entry deliberately, and will “store it until next year, thus conserving its service life.”

Saratov Airlines is the only certified Antonov An-148-100V operator in Russia. It is legal under law to use parts of the aircraft until its service entry in order to maintain the rest of the fleet’s airworthiness; indeed, this strategy is quite common for the industry, the operator points out.

The airline says it is too soon to tell where the newly delivered aircraft will be based eventually. A decision will not be made until the beginning of 2018. The carrier’s route network stretches from Kaliningrad in the west of the country to Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in the east.

“Much will depend on the An-148 maintenance schedule, as we rotate our aircraft intensively to make them go through base maintenance checks at the most suitable and convenient times,” Vakhromeyev notes. “If the amount of base inspections is rather big, it would be prudent to perform the maintenance at our Saratov maintenance hangar.”

Saratov Airlines originally planned to lease four An-148s to replace its aging Yakovlev Yak-42Ds. Later on the carrier introduced a fifth of the type. All its six Antonovs are being leased for a period of five years.

The fleet expansion measures helped the carrier rise one step to 19th position in the ranking of Russia’s largest airlines by passenger traffic. In actual figures its traffic grew by 64.9%, reaching the current 313,100 passengers.

Rossiya Airlines, an Aeroflot Group subsidiary, leased six An-148s from Ilyushin Finance Co. The carrier stopped flying the type in 2015, citing the aircraft’ inefficiency.

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