Getting to appreciate the Antonov An-158

It was only a few days ago that I wrote about Russian-Cuban cooperation in the field of aviation. As you might imagine Cuba is not a particularly vibrant country when it comes to the airline industry (or of industry of any sorts for that matter) but it's got something that makes it quite interesting for planespotters and avgeeks in general: for obvious reasons it remains THE market for Russian airliners that have met little success elsewhere.

I am talking about the Ilyushin Il-96 and the Antonov An-158 (well, this one is actually Ukrainian but it carries Russian technology to a large degree), curioously enough the more "Western" Superjet is not on Havana's shopping list (wondering whether this is due to restrictions on the sale of some technological components supplied by Superjet's Western partners).

In any case, if I am mentioning all this is because today I came across a great report by Roman Gusarov on the Russian aviation site Ruaviation about the delivery of an Antonov An-158s to Cubana de Aviación.

The piece is written in English and explains in detail the complex financial arrangements that led to this aircraft purchase in the first place, the ferry flight from the Ukraine to Cuba, with stopovers in Iceland and Canada (and interestingly enough over the US too!) as well as great pictures of the whole delivery ceremony, the An-158, its cabin and Havana airport.

If you would like to see the Antonov An-158 in action, there are some interesting videos in the net that summarize the whole Cuba-Ukraine-Russia relationship over this unusual aircraft type. Here is the first one from a Ukrainian TV showing a ceremony in which one of the aircraft is delivered at the factory.

Then a Cuban video (yes! they use Youtube too!) with commentary in Spanish, showing how the An-158 arrived at José Martí International Airport in Havana.

And then what looks like a promotional video from Moscow's MAKS 2011 air show showing the An-158 and the Sukhoi Superjet in flight. Not sure what to say about the choice of music background, but the footage is quite cool actually...

Unlike the Sukhoi Superjet, I don't think the An-158 is a particularly good looking aircraft (reminds me of the Bae-146 and RJ-85 that I did not really enjoy much as a passenger) but watching these videos I found there is some figther-like agility in this airliner that makes me want to fly it, at least once to try...!