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Supporting An-148
Monday November 1, 2010 14:44 MSK / Vladimir Karnozov
This presentation was made at the Rossiya-hosted operational performance conference for the Antonov An-148. The speaker was Valery Ivanov, head of the Antonov Design Bureau’s An-148 client support group.

The Antonov Design Bureau pays close attention to the operation of its products. Our aircraft are used in over 70 countries, and our firm's specialists endeavor to provide active client support everywhere.

I would like to tell you about An-148 operations in Ukraine. The first aircraft to be delivered was given manufacturer serial number 01-01 (MSN01-01), and civilian registration UR-NTA. A week after being handed over to the airline for operation, it made its first passenger flight on the Kharkov-Kiev route. It happened the second of J une 2009. A whole year has passed since then. We saw to it that both the maiden flight and the first anniversary were special occasions, making them memorable.

Here are the initial results of An-148 operation: we have established flights throughout Ukraine, flying to various airports. Late last year, service was started to other CIS countries, and then to Western Europe. We are continuing to add new destinations. Until recently, the average sector length was 1 hr. and 20 min.; we now have reached a duration of up to 2.5 hours. In other words, our sectors are increasing. The first routes were one-hour flights (from Kiev to Odessa, Simferopol, or Lvov), so that any faults could be fixed quickly. Now that the problem flow has declined considerably, it's become possible to expand the network of routes served by An- 148s, and the sector lengths continue to grow. In May, for example, we started flights to Thessaloniki, Greece.

Let me note one peculiarity about operating URNTA. Most of its faults had to do with the airframe and avionics. Why the airframe? Because this particular aircraft, MSN01-01, was the first An-148 to undergo intensive use in the process of factory and certification tests. Its design has some peculiarities. Subsequent An-148 aircraft had design changes based on the experience of testing MSN01-01.

It's worth noting that the An-148 is a new-generation passenger jetliner, created with the use of cutting- edge technologies. It's full of sophisticated equipment and features modern performance levels. Even the leading Western producers don't have such an advanced aircraft in this class. On delivery, the first jetliner drew some minor criticisms concerning the overhead bins and paintwork. Some of them were repeated when Rossiya Russian Airlines took delivery of the RA-61701 aircraft from the VASO plant. Yet these comments are of a somewhat different nature. More complaints were received about the airframe. Tests and operation revealed some design flaws, which we endeavored to eliminate once the An-148 was in regular production, and we have made some progress on that: the aircraft delivered to Rossiya were assembled with the changes we managed to make.

How do we see cooperation between designers and operators? Firstly, we train pilots and cabin crew - over a hundred specialists have undergone training. We train them efficiently, in the understanding that a very important stage of initial operation is under way.

The chief designer at Antonov decided to establish a client support group for the An-148. As group leader, I assisted in putting MSN01-01 into service: providing support to the airline, providing advice and technologies for fixing current faults, including aircraft system failures. My group is a small team that acts as the nucleus of relations between Antonov and airlines operating our aircraft. We endeavor to understand any defects that arise, and resolve them on the spot if possible. If not, we use every available means of communication to bring in the relevant specialist in any given area.

The An-148 has an excellent onboard technical servicing system (OTSS). We receive a great deal of data from it. Problems that would usually be difficult to understand are resolved more easily with the OTSS. Having worked on An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft in the past, I can compare their operations to the An-148, and I can say this much: the fault tracking level is much higher for the An-148 and troubleshooting naturally is faster and more efficient due to its more sophisticated built-in monitoring system.

To be honest, we aren't up to the Boeing and Airbus level yet, but we are actively working to create a modern client support system. We are establishing an information analysis support center, which is now being equipped with the latest data transfer technology for rapid response operation. Everything will be aimed at creating a system based on ideas expressed by the world's leading aviation specialists. We shall offer the same kind of support as the world's leading producers. At this point, it's still being developed: we have a center, the addresses are known, and we are starting to communicate…receiving information from Rossiya, processing it, and trying to deliver recommendations quickly.

Antonov's chief objective is to issue design documentation. As the aircraft designer, we undoubtedly are accountable for the aircraft in general. We also seek to influence the pace of supplementary design work, and proper operation. We see our chief task as ensuring that timely corrective action is taken. We analyze the data presented today by Rossiya and Aerosvit Airlines, doing a great deal of productive work with them, resolving any questions that arise.

Allow me to note the significant decrease in questions arising at Aerosvit since it started operating the An-148. At the start, there were two questions per flight. Now, with the aircraft in service for a year, the number of questions coming in from the airline has practically dropped to zero: we get one question a week, or none. More questions are coming in from Rossiya than from Aerosvit, since we have already resolved some of them in Ukraine - working out and making changes to the design, technical specifications, software, and various manuals. This has been facilitated by the Ukrainian and Russian aviation authorities.

When setting up the client support group, we put some thought into providing flight safety support under these new conditions. We made a proposal: use the "technical solution" document for timely intervention with the aim of taking action on complaints. This document is a simplified version of design documentation. When a "technical solution" is signed by a design engineer, this isn't merely the signature of someone delegated to sign it; it's the signature of the person who has taken in all the pertinent information from his colleagues and endorsed it by his signature. Each document of this kind is revised numerous times and thoroughly considered. Its form is somewhat different from what we have used in the Soviet Union and later in the CIS. It's a new form, more efficient, and we expedite these documents.

We also use conventional methods, issuing service bulletins; but we can't always coordinate everything quickly with those, since it takes time to issue and distribute a bulletin. But a "technical solution" can be delivered faster, and we have taken advantage of that in providing client support for the An-148.

We have used this approach most actively on aircraft MSN01-01, which is owned by the Antonov Design Bureau. Of course, it helps that we, as the design bureau, have been carrying out the relevant procedures on our own aircraft. If we have a "technical solution" and a technician crew is on site with the aircraft, then we give them the documentation and go out there and work together, implementing solutions. The only hold-ups involve working techniques.

After that we convene another meeting to report "technical solution" results, and close them out with service bulletins for additional work required: that is, using the conventional practice of classifying a change and sending out updates. The only difference is that when "technical solutions" precede bulletins, what we achieve is preemptive action. The work is done before the formal procedure of making changes to the aircraft's technical specifications. We are trying to adopt the same approach in working with Rossiya. Based on our experience, I can say that we resolve some problems rapidly by means of timely "technical solutions".

I have a list of about 35 questions in total, including 11 raised at today's conference, about faults and criticisms identified in the course of operating the aircraft. Technical documentation has been issued for questions about additional heating of the vacuum toilet waste system (which was required during the cold snap in the winter of 2009-2010), additional latching on the direct vision window, and others. Last winter, when we were trying to urgently resolve the additional heating problem, we came up with a temporary solution - working on aircraft to ensure that they kept flying even on the coldest days. Of course, we later issued relevant service bulletins. The question of the vacuum system heating, and uneven cabin heating has now been resolved; we are about to start making physical changes to the aircraft. We discuss all this in our explanatory notes, letters, and documentation received regularly by Rossiya.

Antonov isn't standing still. We are actively working on developing the An-148. We recently received an additional certificate allowing Cat. III landings. The certificate has been received, and the documentation is being passed on to VASO. So we have the green light to continue developing our aircraft and fly to Cat. III airports. This will require extra investment, of course, but it will make operations more efficient.

A further development of the type, the An-158 version, made its first flight in late April. This aircraft is successfully going through factory flight tests. We shall soon begin its certification tests, which should be completed by the end of 2010. What's new in the An-158? Things that were optional features for the An-148 aircraft delivered to Rossiya, as compared to the initial factory model. The baseline version of the An-158 has the four onboard systems installed on production An-148s to meet the requirements of Rossiya. Push-button overhead baggage bins have been replaced with a new modified design. And that's only some of the many improvements and upgrades.

It's been good to hear some general impressions about the new aircraft from pilots, technicians, engineers, and passengers at Rossiya. I'm glad that most of these impressions are positive. Here's my personal view: I took delivery of the new aircraft from the designer, and participated in taking delivery of the first production aircraft at the end of last year and early this year. I remember my own first impressions and those of the specialists at Rossiya; I remember the red faces of the pilots and flight attendants after the first flight. And our faces were probably just as red. On the whole, however, it was very good to see how well prepared the whole Rossiya team was to meet the new aircraft. After only a week or two of working together, we were talking the same language - we understood what we were studying and how to do it, and the decisions we made.

This constructive approach, being willing to clarify issues, and assistance from the VASO technicians - all of this helped us through the difficult initial stage of establishing normal operations for a new type of aircraft. We flew here yesterday on one of our own flights, where we had a chance to talk to pilots, flight attendants, and passengers. They said: "The aircraft is a success - we like it." It's a completely new type, of course, and still needs work to let things sink in and establish uninterrupted everyday operation. The Antonov team, our subcontractors and suppliers are continuing to work together on improving our product.

There are now two An-148s in scheduled service with Ukraine's Aerosvit: UR-NTA was joined by UR-NTC in May. We Ukrainians will endeavor to catch up with our respected colleagues at Rossiya in terms of flights, cycles, and the number of passengers flown. This won't be easy, of course, given the higher rate of production for this type of aircraft in Russia. Rossiya took delivery of its fourth An-148 in late June and is preparing to receive two more by the end of the year. We're satisfied to note that An-148 aircraft are getting a good reception from passengers and airline specialists, and we're making every effort to live up to their high expectations. 

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