Farnborough Air Show

Superjet Partners Seek Closer Ties

 - July 14, 2014, 7:40 AM
This Sukhoi Superjet 100 is here at the Farnborough Airshow,in Interjet livery.

A single Superjet 100 “product chalet,” occupied by officials from both Venice-based Superjet International (SJI) and Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) here in Farnborough, reflects a conscious effort by the two companies to more effectively integrate their operations. The joint presence here marks something of a milestone in the evolution of the two companies’ relationship, Superjet International CEO Nazario Cauceglia told AIN during an interview just before the start of the show.

“As you can imagine, at the beginning, any partnership is challenging,” said Cauceglia. “In this case, this is probably the first partnership between Russia and a Western country in commercial aviation. What we are trying to do is put together different cultures, different histories, different rules and so on. And putting together these things is not always easy. In fact, it was really hard. But I can tell you that as always in our life, you can make a choice. You can look at the past or you can look toward the future. I think we have every reason to be satisfied and to be proud of the progress we have made.”

Still, Cauceglia noted the need for more improvement, as expressed by the mandate by shareholders to integrate the companies’ sales forces to the extent that they report to a single manager. In fact, Cauceglia suggested that SJI and SCAC would announce the organizational change at the show.

The change will not result in a merger of the sales forces, however; the two companies would continue to maintain separate sales territories, explained Cauceglia. SJI will continue to serve as sales representative for the Western hemisphere, including Africa, while SCAC maintains responsibility primarily for Russia, the CIS and Asia.

Meanwhile, more evidence of an effort between SJI and SCAC to better collaborate appears in the form of two airplanes on static display, one in the colors of Western launch customer Interjet and the other in the livery of Russia’s UTair. Cauceglia explained the display highlights the flexibility of the airplane’s interior; the Interjet airplane, featuring a cabin conceived by Italian design house Pininfarina, holds 93 seats with a 34-inch pitch, which the UTair airplane, configured in a high-density layout, carries 104 seats with a 30-inch pitch.

Mexico City-based Interjet has now taken delivery of eight of the 20 airplanes on order, and expects to take another seven by the end of this year. The last five will come by May of next year, said Cauceglia, as the KnAAPO factory in Russia’s Far East speeds production beyond the 40 airplanes it plans for this year. Next year, the manufacturer expects to produce 50 Superjets, then 60 in 2016.

Of course, SCAC’s well-publicized problems early in its efforts to accelerate production hadn’t escaped Cauceglia’s notice, but the Italian chief executive expressed optimism that new processes in place at Komsomolsk will ensure the manufacturer will meet its production targets for this year and beyond.

“Believe me, I’m one of the people who had the opportunity to see Komsomolsk at the very beginning of the program,” he said. “There was almost nothing…I can tell you this, it is very impressive to see how fast the facility has grown. Fifty aircraft per year means that every 10 days we will have one aircraft exit the final assembly line, which is not bad.

“A lot of effort has been spent on the formation of manpower,” added Cauceglia. “We see the results in terms of the quality of the aircraft.”

Responsible for the interior completions of Western customers’ airplanes, SJI sends personnel to Sukhoi’s Moscow facilities to inspect and accept the “green” airplanes before they get sent to Venice for cabin installations. Cauceglia explained that he has seen “a huge improvement” between the first Interjet airplane and the eighth it recently delivered. “[SCAC] has invested a lot in lean manufacturing, they have invested a lot in manpower formation, they have invested a lot in the management of the quality process,” he said. “Some of the defects that we found on the first aircraft have disappeared.”