Powerjet received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for the SaM146 turbofan on June 23. Jean-Paul Ebanga, chairman and CEO of the joint venture between France’s Snecma and Russia’s NPO Saturn, reported that the company expects to build 12 production engines this year in Rybinsk, Russia, allowing Sukhoi Civil Aircraft to honor its commitment to deliver the first production Superjet 100s to Aeroflot and Armavia by year-end.
EASA certification of the SaM146 engine marks a monumental achievement for a program that had struggled to supply the Superjet program with enough prototype engines to keep pace with Sukhoi’s test schedule. Although Sukhoi had managed to fly four prototypes by February, it did so with only six engines, using the first two on both the first and fourth airplanes.
By late February Saturn delivered the seventh prototype engine and shipped the eighth and final prototype in May. Since then Sukhoi has fitted the fourth prototype with the new test engines.
Ebanga reported that Saturn has made great strides since the problems it encountered early on in the program. “Yes, at the end of 2008, the beginning of 2009, the situation was difficult,” he acknowledged. “They [Saturn] addressed the issue in the appropriate way and today I think we are in the safe zone again.”
Sukhoi, as well, has expressed satisfaction with the recent progress at Saturn, applauding it for its “around the clock” efforts to accelerate final assembly after the Russian government intervened with monetary support and Safran dispatched a special team of engineers from France to Rybinsk to help settle its technical difficulties.
Saturn now operates as part of OPK Oboronprom, the state-controlled beneficiary of a 6.521 billion ruble ($212 million) capital injection prescribed under an executive order signed by Prime Minister Vladmir Putin. Saturn carries responsibility for the engine’s low-pressure section, final assembly and ground tests, while Snecma supplies the engine core, control systems and power transmission, and oversees overall aircraft-engine integration and flight tests.
By the end of its certification program, the SaM146 had logged 7,000 hours of testing, according to Powerjet, including 3,500 flight hours, without any major incidents. The company performed the last medium-size bird ingestion test on May 26, marking the end of certification testing. It completed fan blade-out tests on May 6 and, earlier in the year, the engine passed its block test, demonstrating performance under extreme operating conditions.
Meanwhile, as Powerjet worked to prepare the first production engine for power-on, Sukhoi has stayed busy with its own testing activities. In early June the second Superjet prototype (S/N 95003) successfully finished its testing aimed at evaluation of engine protection against runway water.
Conducted at Sukhoi’s Zhukovsky flight test center, the test involved 27 runs at various speeds through a special 230-foot-long pool built on the runway and filled with water up to a depth of 1.57 inches. Russian certification authorities on hand paid special attention to low-speed modes, takeoff mode and maximum thrust reverser, said Sukhoi.