Thirteen years after it was abandoned, Polar Airlines and the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA) brought back the L-610 to life with an order for 10 of the regional aircraft, to be delivered between 2023 and 2025.
The development of the 40-seater L-610 started in 1985 at Let Kunovice Aircraft Industries in former Czechoslovakia. The Czech plane maker wanted to develop a bigger successor to its popular L-410. The latter had encountered quite a lot of success during the Soviet era, both as a civilian regional plane and a military reconnaissance aircraft and is in fact still operated by multiple airlines and air forces around the world. With a capacity of 19 passengers, the L-410 is competing with the likes of the Canadian Twin Otter.
Its successor, however, did not meet the same fate. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Let tried to adapt its new airplane to the global market by westernizing its avionics. Eight prototypes were made and the aircraft achieved its maiden flight on December 18, 1992. But due to a lack of funding, the program was eventually abandoned in 2006 and Let went on to focus on the L-410 and on gliders.
In 2008, 51% of Let’s shares were acquired by the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UGMK), with the prospect of developing the market of Russian regional aircraft. In 2018, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Oleg Bocharov announced the decision of acquiring the documentation for the L-610 in order to continue its development.
While the development of the new L-610 is carried out on the basis of the existing scientific and technical work, it should differ from the original prototype. “The maximum take-off mass, cargo capacity, flight range and speed of the aircraft will increase, moreover, even the fuselage of the aircraft will be presented in a more modern design,” claims the director-general of UZGA Vadim Badeha. The type certificate is expected for 2023, with mass production commencing the same year.
Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov told Vedomosti that the project should reinforce international cooperation through a partnership with Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic.
With 10 aircraft ordered at the MAKS 2019 air show, the L-610 should replace the An-24 and An-26 within Russian Polar Airlines’ fleet, according to Semen Vinokurov, Director General of the airline. The partially state-owned regional carrier, subsidiary of Yakutia Airlines, already operates three L-410s.