The Beriev Be-200 Altair (Russian: Бериев Бе-200) is a multipurpose amphibious aircraftdesigned by the Beriev Aircraft Company and manufactured by Irkut. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12 tonnes (12,000 litres, 3,170 US gallons) of water, or up to 72 passengers.
The name Altair was chosen after a competition amongst Beriev and Irkut staff in 2002/2003. The name Altair was chosen as it is not only the name of the alpha star in the Eagle constellation, but also because “Al” is the first part of the name of the Beriev A-40 Albatrossamphibious aircraft, whose layout was the development basis for the creation of the Be-200, “ta” stands for Taganrog, and “ir” stands for Irkutsk.
he Be-200 was designed by the Beriev Aviation Company, with the Russian Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association (now part of the Irkut Corporation). Beriev are responsible for development, design and documentation; systems-, static-, flight- and fatigue-testing of prototypes; certification and support of the production models. Irkut’s duties comprise production preparation; manufacture of tooling; production of four prototypes and production aircraft; and spare parts manufacture. Both companies now fall under the umbrella of the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation.
Initiated in 1989 under the design leadership of Alexander Yavkin, Russian government approval for a purpose-designed water bomber was granted on 8 December 1990. Details of the project were announced, and a model displayed at the 1991 Paris Air Show.
Beriev developed unique fire-fighting equipment for the Be-200, allowing it to scoop water while skimming the water surface at 90-95% of takeoff speed. This system was developed using a specially modified Be-12P, coded ’12 Yellow’. After installation of the fire-fighting system, the aircraft was registered RA-00046 and given the designation Be-12P-200. This modified Be-12 was used to develop both the fire-fighting system and methods of operation.
The Be-200’s first flight from land was scheduled for 1997, but was eventually achieved by the first prototype aircraft on 24 September 1998. The aircraft was then transferred from Irkutsk to Taganrog after 26½ flying hours, and the first take off from water was conducted on 10 September 1999 in Taganrog. The second Be-200 flew on August 27, 2002. This aircraft was built as a Be-200ES, being fitted to the specifications of the launch customer, EMERCOM, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.
In 2001, as part of a marketing program, the Be-200 was displayed at two large exhibitions in the Pacific Ocean region; the International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition LIMA’01 in Malaysia and the Korean Aerospace and Defence Exhibition KADE’01 in South Korea.
In 2002, the Be-200 participated in international aviation exhibitions, successfully demonstrating its capabilities to potential customers inFrance and Greece with 15 demonstration flights made from land, eight from water. A total of over 7,600 km was flown across Europe.
Irkut and EADS signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2002 to jointly carry out a market study and to define the conditions and costs of international certification and the logistics of setting up a worldwide after-sales service. The study was completed in July 2003, revealing a potential market for up to 320 aircraft over 20 years. The two companies, with Rolls-Royce Deutschland, plan to obtain Western certification during 2008/9 and offer a Rolls-Royce BR715 powered aircraft for Western markets. This version is to be given the designation Be-200RR. The original Be-200 prototype (RF-21511) has been earmarked to be converted into the Be-200RR prototype.
The first production aircraft, a Be-200ES flew on June 17, 2003. It was delivered to EMERCOM on July 31, 2003. Seven aircraft have been ordered by EMERCOM, five have been delivered. The fifth airframe is being used for the European certification process which was expected to be completed in 2008. EASA eventually certified the Be200ES-E on September 7, 2010. The remaining two are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2008. EMERCOM has an option to buy a further 8 Be-200s, with a decision expected during the latter part of 2008.
In 2010, production of the Be-200 is due to switch to the Centre of competence for amphibian aircraft and flying boats in Taganrog. An assembly line is being set up using tooling and equipment received from Irkut’s main manufacturing site in Irkutsk, Siberia. This will allow the Irkut Corporation to concentrate on other more lucrative projects. Production of the Be-200 will remain under the umbrella of the United Aircraft Corporation.