Superjet Flies

 - May 21, 2008, 6:47 AM

Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft flew the new Superjet 100 for the first time on May 19 from the company’s main assembly site in the Far East city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The milestone came some six months after the company had originally hoped to stage the maiden voyage of the 95-seat regional jet, scheduled now for delivery to launch customer Aeroflot next spring.

Sukhoi civil chief pilot Alexander Yablontsev and test pilot Leonid Chikunov spent one hour and five minutes aloft, during which time they took the airplane to an altitude of 4,000 feet. During its premiere flight, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 took off, flew over the takeoff runway four times at different altitudes, completed a box pattern and landed. The pilot crew said they confirmed the high thrust-to-weight ratio and the sustainable operation of the engines and main systems.

“This aircraft is a real success, and I can surely state that it is as easy to pilot as Airbus or Boeing airplanes I have previously captained,” said Yablontsev.

The airplane still has to prove itself a commercial success, although it has drawn firm orders for 73 examples, mainly from non-Western airlines. Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan said the company bases projected deliveries of 1,800 Superjets over 20 years on two fundamental factors. First, the Russian market will soon witness the rapid retirement of Tu-134 narrowbodies, he told AIN. Second, Sukhoi anticipates significant growth in regional air travel in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The delay of the Superjet’s first flight stemmed largely from postponement of SaM146 flight testing on the Il-76. A change in leadership at the Zhukovsky-based Gromov Flight Research Institute, the organization tasked with testing the engine on the Il-76, coincided with the scheduled start of the project, resulting in a bureaucratic quagmire. Only after Yevgeniy Gorbunov, former director of the aviation department of the Federal Agency for Industry (Rosprom), became the institute’s director did testing start in December.