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Bahrain 2012: Middle East debut for Russian Superjet

Posted 19 January 2012 · Add Comment

A new shape will be on the BIAS flightline this year as Sukhoi uses the show as the Middle East debut for its Superjet SSJ100 regional airliner.

Sukhoi SuperJetThe Russian airframer has brought one of the three examples ordered by lead customer Armavia, Armenia’s national carrier, as a demonstrator aircraft. It will be undertaking flights for potential customers and the media.

Sukhoi has previously brought the aircraft to the Gulf for hot-weather testing. It has also given presentations to several airlines in the region, including Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, Air Bahrain and the national carriers of Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. However, this is the first occasion on which it has displayed the aircraft at an airshow in the region.

Sukhoi believes that the Superjet has genuine prospects of winning substantial orders beyond Russia and traditional customers for that nation’s civil aircraft. It was buoyed last year by an order for 15 for Mexican carrier Interjet and says that of the 168 orders for the type to date, around 100 are from non-Russian customers.

Among other international customers are Italy’s Blue Panorama, Indonesia’s PT Sky Aviation and two US leasing companies, Pearl Aviation and Willis Lease.

It has tried to increase confidence among potential customers who would not normally consider buying a Russian airliner by involving more than 30 leading western component manufacturers in the project, such as Thales (avionics), Goodrich (wheels and brakes) and Messier Bugatti Dowty (landing gear).

Sukhoi says that the aircraft, which typically carries 98 passengers, has an 8-10% advantage in operational costs compared to competitors. It points to areas, such as a highly aerodynamically-refined wing, as reasons behind the advantage.

The company said yesterday that growth in the Middle East – particularly the Gulf – would lead to increasing demand for airliners, including those in the 100/120-seat bracket covered by the Superjet. It believes it can sell more than 60 Superjets in the region over the next 20 years.

“We have had considerable interest,” said a Sukhoi spokesman, adding: “We believe we will get our first order in the region this year.”

He added that there was at least as much interest in the business jet (SBJ) version of the airliner, noting that the region’s corporate market was growing rapidly.

Sukhoi announced last summer that it was going ahead with the SBJ, based on the SSJ100/95 platform. Since then, it has elaborated on its original announcement, saying that the SBJ will be available in three different configurations – VIP, Corporate and Government.

The VIP variant will have several distinct zones for office, bedroom and bathroom areas. Additional fuel tankage in the aircraft’s belly hold will more than double the standard airliner’s 1645nm (3045km) to almost 4300nm.

Certification of the SBJ is scheduled for early in 2014.

Assembly of the airliner, meanwhile, is ramping up, with around 20 of the aircraft due to be completed this year. Production rates are due to rise to 60 a year by 2014.

Armavia has now operated the type for around nine months and Aeroflot for six. By the end of last year they had racked up more than 1,750 revenue flights and about 3,400 flight hours. Daily utilisation has ranged from nine to 14.5 hours, with the record to date being 16.5 hours.

Meanwhile, late October 2011 saw Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) at Zhukovsky, just outside Moscow, confirm Sukhoi’s calculations on the static strength of the SSJ100’s fuselage by testing it to nearly double the pressure load that the aircraft could expect to meet in operational service.

Zhukovsky was also the site, last month, for the opening of the training centre for both crews and technical staff of Superjet operators.

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