Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Asia/Pacific regional director Anatoly Mezhevov confirmed here yesterday that Canada’s Bombardier had asked his company to join the now-shelved C Series project, but that Sukhoi declined. He further said that Bombardier also approached Sukhoi about the Canadian company’s possible participation in the Russian Regional Jet (RRJ), but that Sukhoi saw little benefit in negotiating any such arrangement at this late point in the program’s development.
“Perhaps at some point during the next stage, when we start to look at a larger version of the airplane,” said Mezhevov, who further pointed to Bombardier’s financial problems as an encumbrance to any near-term partnership. He mentioned, however, that Sukhoi will need help breaking into the U.S. market, and that perhaps a link with Bombardier would prove useful in that regard.
Also on hand yesterday for a joint Sukhoi-PowerJet press briefing, PowerJet CEO Michel Dechelotte spoke more bluntly about any potential partnership with Bombardier. “They don’t have anything to offer the program,” he said.
By contrast, Italy’s Alenia, which will sign as a risk-sharing partner in the RRJ program on March 5, reported Mezhevov. To eventually take a 25-percent stake in the program, Alenia will initially help with composites technology, followed by sales, marketing and customer support.
As for Boeing, Mezhevov said it still acts as a “consultant,” and at some point might help provide parts warehousing for foreign customers. Further Boeing participation might involve the establishment of an Alteon training facility in Moscow, he added.
So far having booked firm orders for 30 of the airplanes from Aeroflot and 10 more from Russian leasing company FLC, Sukhoi projects an Asia/Pacific market for 832 airplanes in the 60- to 120-seat capacity range, largely from China and Indonesia. Pressed on how he expected Sukhoi to compete with China’s own ARJ21 in the People’s Republic, Mezhevov said that the RRJ’s fuel burn profile makes it better suited to more point-to-point, trunkline duty, while the ARJ21 will do better in a hub-and-spoke environment. “They really aren’t in the same range category,” said Mezhevov, who further projected that the RRJ would win an order in this region by the end of the year, and quite probably from Indonesia.
Initially planning to build two variants, the 75-seat RRJ75 and the 95-seat RRJ95, Sukhoi has set a dispatch reliability goal of 99.6 percent in the first year of the airplane’s operation. If that sounds lofty for a Russian program, it is, but Sukhoi has taken to stressing that the RRJ is not a Russian program, but rather an international effort. In any case, if Aeroflot experiences anything near that figure, the RRJ will have taken a giant step toward convincing prospects from the Asia/Pacific region and, indeed, the West, of its credibility.