Sukhoi, Superjet Look to Remove Tarnish After SSJ Crash

 - July 8, 2012, 1:00 PM
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 lands at Farnborough Airport.

Two months after suffering a fatal accident involving a demonstration airplane once used for air show appearances, Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ) program partners Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) and SuperJet International (SJI) are hoping to dampen further speculation about the disaster, at least for this week. Helping it with this will be an Aeroflot SSJ in the static display, and a possible follow-on order from Mexico’s Interjet. The Aeroflot jet–Serial Number 95016–arrived in Farnborough on Sunday afternoon and may remain here until Tuesday.

Although, from a commercial perspective, the program staged a fairly quick rebound after the accident with the sale of six SSJ100-95s to Russia’s Transaero two weeks ago, SCAC and SJI representatives will undoubtedly face more questions here at the Farnborough show about the May 9 crash that took the lives of 45 people.

“The accident in Indonesia, even though it is absolutely unfair and severe, shall fill us up with the strength to work even more intensively and self-sacrificing in order to implement the program…in the memory of our colleagues and partners we’ve lost,” SCAC president Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk told AIN just before the start of the show. “The majority of our customers, partners and other stakeholders assured us that they believe in the SSJ100 aircraft’s success and will support us in running this program.”

As such, SCAC continues to plan for an aggressive acceleration of production, from a planned 20 airplanes this year–following an increase to three a month in the third quarter–to 60 airplanes in 2014. This past January SCAC increased the capacity of its Komsomolsk-on-Amur factory by transferring the fuselage assembly shop to its KnAF branch and adding two workstations in the final assembly process, according to Prisyazhnyuk.

In May, Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar began performing interior installation, allocating a dedicated workspace in a hangar that allows it to mount interiors on four SSJ100s simultaneously. Meanwhile, the outsourcing of “essential” work from KnAF to subcontractors continues, and the establishment of the delivery center in Ulyanovsk has begun. “We also permanently improve final assembly technological processes and production management,” said Prisyazhnyuk.

In service since the spring of 2011, the SSJ100 as of the end of June had carried some 300,000 passengers on almost 5,000 revenue flights, accumulating 9,700 flight hours in the process. Armavia SSJ100’s regularly perform flights from Yerevan to 34 airports in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Western and Southern Europe and the Middle East. Daily aircraft utilization has reached 16.5 flight hours, while the longest distance exceeded 2,100 nm, on a route from Yerevan to Madrid.

Aeroflot’s eight SSJ100s have performed scheduled flights from Moscow to 27 destinations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Europe. From the third quarter of this year Aeroflot will receive its SSJ100 aircraft with so-called configuration Full, which meets all performance specifications guaranteed by Sukhoi prior to certification. Under an agreement with SCAC, the airline will begin to return its aircraft with configuration Light to the manufacturer in 2013 as each aircraft accumulates 3,000 flight hours.

“These results achieved through joint efforts of Aeroflot, Armavia, SCAC, SuperJet International and [engine maker] PowerJet sometimes exceeded those of many other new aircraft types in the first year of their commercial operations,” noted Prisyazhnyuk. “For us it is important that the SSJ100 received positive feedback from pilots of both operators.”

SJI, which carries responsibility for preparing crewmembers for the SSJ100, has so far trained 102 pilots, 28 flight attendants and 312 maintenance technicians working for both Aeroflot and Armavia. This year it expects to train some 75 cockpit crews (150 pilots), around 35 cabin crewmembers and roughly 350 mechanics in total at its Venice, Italy and Moscow training centers. A full-flight simulator already operates in Moscow, and SJI expects to complete installation of a second in Venice by the end of the year to help train crewmembers flying for Mexican SSJ customer Interjet.


The superjet project has certainly quickly recover from the 9 may crash which was seemingly caused by an unfortunate pilot error.

The next important point is to prove to its current and future airline customers that Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation and its affiliated equipmnet manufacturer have the manufacturing capablities of delivering the product on time.

Unfortunately production delays has plagued the SSJ projet since the beginning. The first aircraft was delivered on the 19 April 2011 and as to date in 26 July 2012 only 9 aircraft were delivered to both Armavia and Aeroflot airlines which represent only one aircraft per 7 weeks. The latest delivered aircraft to Aeroflot on the 18 May 2012 was delivered 9 weeks ago.

One way to explain this situation is the fact that the already delivered aircraft are not fit to commercial use. They were delivered for marketting purpose and to test and verify the aircraft performance under operational stress.

The last 16 months of operations has demonstrated the ability of the aircraft to perform commercoal flights with limitations. A large number of flights were either postponed or the aircraft was returned to base station for the same sensor air conditionning problem that was pinpointed since april 2011.

The 9 delivered aircraft suffer from an overweight problem: they are 1.5 ton overweight compared to the specification. Sukhoi and its partners in including Powerjet international are due to solve this problem in a short period of time if SCAC pretends to keeps its currents firm orders. It is foreseen that the next batch of Superjet will be the full fledged one that meet the technical specifications. Also, the SSJ engines, the Sam46, from Powerjet must be upgraded to its full specification with an increased of 3-5 % in thrust. It is planned as per contract that Aeroflot return all it jets after so many flight hours to factory for upgrading to specifications while new upgraded jets be provided to the company

In conclusion, the road to succes is very steep and impredictable as well. If SCAC and its partners succeeds to improve the product to specifications within an acceptable time frame the succes will be at hand. Howerver if the delays are to numerous then the projets deliveries will be in jeopardy.

Jean ubota

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