G. Maridakis and C. Panitsidis
July, 1st 2017
China is the first country, worldwide to boast of its new acquisition, the Russian multi-purpose amphibious aircraft Beriev Be-200. “Beriev Aircraft Company” signed a contract with the Hong Kong-based Chinese firm “Energy Leader Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Ltd.” on the 26th of June 2017. The initial order is for two aircraft with an option for two additional units. The two companies have also signed a contract for the short-range, 5-passenger amphibious aircraft Be-103, not only for the purchase of two units but also for a licensed production centre in Chinese territory. Additionally, the “Energy Leader Group” will undertake all necessary measures to train the staff which will support the safe operations of amphibious aviation in the Peoples’ Republic of China. They will provide training for typed amphibious aircraft certificates to pilots, skill augmentation in flying amphibious missions, educational centres (a University is under development as a joint venture with the Moscow State Technical University of Civil Aviation) for a broad range of disciplines, including aeronautical and maintenance engineering, technical personnel, promotion and sales.Be-200 is a witness of Russian expertise in seaplane design. It is a large multi-role turbo-fan engine aircraft with a range of over 3100 km. For the many, this plane could serve as an impetus for further economic growth in densely populated areas along the 14500 km of Chinese coastal line, or as a private amphibious jet; a social recognition for the few. In any case, both Be-200 and the smaller propeller-driven Be-103, are the appropriate aeroplanes for commercial activity in littoral and riverine environments where they will benefit from the absence of airport infrastructure, while they will not contribute air traffic loads to the already congested Chinese busy airports and air traffic zones. It is worth noting that Beriev’s Be-103 technical characteristics allow economical operations and efficiency in short journeys at a 500-600 km range. Its internal configuration may be converted from a passenger to a cargo version or vice-versa, to accommodate any transportation of light loads, and to make these activities profitable even when the number of passengers is small. For the last decades, China has been making a great leap towards economic expansion by growing its international trade interests far beyond its coastal waters. Therefore, it is worth examining the great potential foreseen by the Management of the “Energy Leader Group”, their investment, and the example they are setting for others to follow. The Chinese company has taken on an ambitious project. However, the 83-year-long Beriev Aircraft Company’s tradition of building amphibious aircraft guarantees a quantitative and qualitative flow of service, that is, a safety net, to minimise the risk of failure and maximise the return on invested capital of their Partners’. For this reason, the Beriev choice by the “Energy Leader Group” is an inspired and visionary decision.