The rumors have been flying for some weeks.  When the story first appeared we contacted Antonov and we were sent the following: “Information published in Le Devoir newspaper in the article “Le géant ukrainien Antonov veut atterrir au Québec” (“Ukrainian giant ANTONOV wants to land in Quebec”) is not true. We kindly you do not share this information.” So we didn’t.

Then more smoke appeared. There had to be a fire. We contacted Antonov again and now they tell us this: “ANTONOV Company is world-known as a designer of transport multipurpose aircraft. The enterprise is interested in development of international projects in field of such type airplanes creation including those in partnership with Canadian companies. 

Until present, ANTONOV Company has conducted previous negotiations with Canadian party and discussed possible directions of further cooperation on the program of a new airplane development based on deep modernization of AN-74TK-200 multipurpose aircraft.

ANTONOV presented proposals on this Ukrainian-Canadian program to Ukroboronprom SC and Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine. These proposals were mentioned in MoU regarding cooperation in the field of strategic security, defence, aerospace and munitions signed between Canadian Commercial Corporation and SC Ukroboronprom on June 1, 2021.

ANTONOV Company is prepared for detailed development of the project based on the technical requirements to a new airplane which have to be provided by the Canadian party.

Conclusion of intergovernmental agreement between Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and Government of Quebec has to give a start to this project development. “

What we decipher from this:

  • Montreal is the world’s third-biggest aero cluster and a great place to go looking for opportunities.  Quebec invests in its aerospace cluster willingly.  The aero clusters in Seattle and Toulouse would not even consider any Antonov chatter.
  • Antonov’s pitch to the Quebec and Montreal cluster is based on interest in the development of aircraft, including the modernization of the AN-74TK-200.
    • The idea is part of a larger MoU deal proposed to the Canadians by Ukraine that covers security and defense. The Canadian Commercial Corporation mentioned is focused on Canadian exports.
    • Antonov is willing to participate in the development of a new airplane, the technical requirements of which are to be provided by the Canadians.
    • The decision is now sitting with the Ukrainian and the Quebec governments.

Some background:

  • Antonov is in a deep crisis.  The company’s aircraft are not selling well, and they have over 10,000 skilled that need to get paid.
  • There was talk at one stage (~2018) for Antonov to sub-contract to Bombardier, on the Dash8, to reduce its cost. But then came the Russian/Ukrainian “difference of opinion“.  End of story.

This story is weird. There are discussions but is not clear just how important they are for the Canadians.  For Ukraine the importance is obvious.  Quebec will fund local jobs and projects.  But jobs and projects in Kyiv? Not so much is our bet. 

Might the focus be to create a new Canadian AN-74? Canada could update the engines, avionics, and so on.  Let’s be creative: The current AN-74 can seat 52 or a payload of about 15,000 pounds. Switching from the 1970s era Lotarev D-36 (~1,100lbs thrust) to a current era PW800 (~1,400 lbs thrust) provides a step-change in fuel burn and efficiency. The airframe could probably be stretched to increase its capacity.

Where does this, potentially, take us?  A newish refreshed regional jet. Quebec is very familiar with this type of aircraft – they spent a fortune supporting something similar before didn’t they? The market potential of such a project? Not that big for now. The market would like an alternative to the monopoly Embraer has at the moment.  Is a refreshed AN-74 something to consider? Nah.

As they say in Brazil – Isso é histérico!

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