Kan Air on the radar for Russian jets

Kan Air on the radar for Russian jets

Russia's JSC United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has zeroed in on commuter airline Kan Air as the first Thai civilian operator of the Sukhoi Superjet 100.

UAC has been in talks with Kan Air for leasing three twin-engine SSJ100 regional jets to operate on the airline's domestic routes out of its Chiang Mai base.

Kan Air has loomed large among the Russian aircraft maker's targets after the state visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Thailand in April, when sales of the SJ100 featured prominently on the agenda.

UAC has already delivered three SSJ100s to the Royal Thai Air Force for VIP use in the company's first purchase deal with this country.

Russia is keen to gain a foothold in Southeast Asia's burgeoning regional aircraft market, which has largely shown a preference for Western-built aircraft.

Lao Central Airlines (LCA), a privately owned Laotian carrier, is the only known operator of the SSJ100 in the region, owning a single aircraft of the type.

Somphong Sooksanguan, president of Kannithi Aviation Co, the operator of Kan Air, yesterday confirmed the discussion with UAC.

The talks centre on leasing three SSJ100s configured with 98 seats each. They have been used for a few years by a Russian operator.

Kan Air is waiting for terms and conditions from UAC, which should forward them to the airline for consideration over the next one or two weeks.

"We have yet to see what they can offer and see if the proposition is attractive enough," Mr Somphong told the Bangkok Post.

He made it clear that the UAC proposal would be weighed against an offer by GE Capital Aviation Services, the world's leading commercial aircraft and engine lessor, of two Airbus 320 single-aisle jets.

Kan Air has been looking to acquire jets in the seating range of 100-180 to support secondary routes in Thai domestic skies.

These will be larger aircraft than those in the current fleet, which consists of two 66-seat ATR 72-500 turboprops, a 12-seat single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan 208B propeller aeroplane, and a Hawker Beechcraft Premier I, a six-seat business jet.

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