Superjet team takes U.S. sanctions in stride

 - September 28, 2006, 6:48 AM

Progress on the Sukhoi Superjet 100 continues uninterrupted, despite the U.S. State Department’s inclusion of the airplane’s Russian manufacturer among seven companies sanctioned for violating the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000.

According to the State Department, Sukhoi, Russian state-owned enterprise Rosoboronexport and five other companies transferred banned material to Iran since January 1999, prompting the move to suspend export licenses for the transfer of material controlled under the Export Administration Act of 1979 or the Export Administration Regulations. Nevertheless, Sukhoi insists that none of the six U.S. suppliers to the Superjet has indicated that the sanctions will affect their participation in the project, and all have continued to work on it as if nothing had changed.

“As for today we do not have the thinking that U.S. State Department sanctions on Sukhoi might have an effect on Superjet 100 program,” said a Sukhoi spokeswoman. “We are preparing the detailed official paper to that issue at the moment. We do, of course, have a plan of action for force-majeure situations, but there is so far no need to implement or even to consider it.

“As per our procurement people, we can split the purchased items into two groups–equipment for the Superjet 100 program (machines, maintenance items and so on) and components and systems for the Superjet 100 itself,” she added. “Companies from both groups had confirmed their readiness to continue the work on the corresponding contracts–some, such as Honeywell, with official letters, some by giving their employees directions to continue work. Most of the companies also stated that, as far as they were reported, the ban relates only to military items and is supposed to have no effect on civil projects, such as Superjet 100.”

Contacted for comment, State Department official Matt Hardeman would only refer AIN to the Federal Register notice and the individual companies involved, maintaining that he could not speak accurately about each case without knowing whether the transferred equipment required export licenses.

At press time none of the U.S. Superjet suppliers AIN attempted to contact responded to requests for comment. The companies involved include Honeywell (APU), Goodrich (wheels and brakes), Parker (hydraulics), B/E Aerospace (interiors), Hamilton Sundstrand (electrical systems) and Curtiss Wright (fire suppressors).
Boeing, meanwhile, continues to act as a consultant on the Superjet program and, perhaps more telling, signed a joint venture with Russian titanium monopoly VSMPO-Avisma, 41 percent of which Rosoboronexport–the other Russian company under State Department sanction–now controls.

“Our assessment of the U.S. government sanctions continues,” said Boeing in a statement. “However, based on our initial review, we do not believe the sanctions will affect our commercial relationships with Russian suppliers of titanium, or our work with Sukhoi on the Superjet 100 program.”

In the midst of building the first pair of six prototypes, the Superjet team, which now includes Alenia after the Italian company took a 25-percent stake in the program this summer, expects first flight to happen next September and Russian certification in October 2008.

In an effort to promote the Superjet in Western markets, Alenia and Sukhoi have agreed to launch a European joint venture concentrating on sales and aftermarket support. Alenia has agreed to send a team of experts to Sukhoi Civil Aircraft to work in certification, sales, procurement and support, as well as advanced materials and systems developed and made in Italy. During July’s Farnborough Air Show, Alenia CEO Giovanni Bertolone said that the partnership could expand to include other businesses within Finmeccanica and a potential support role for the EADS/Alenia-owned Avions de Transport Regional (ATR).

In an effort to further foster international cooperation in the project and the country’s aerospace industry at large, Russian legislators will consider a proposal to increase the proportion of a Russian company foreigners may own from 25 percent to 49 percent. Aside from Alenia, India’s HAL had expressed serious interest in the then Russian Regional Jet but, as the rules stand today, cannot take a stake in the Superjet.

Recent supplier additions include CMC Electronics (via avionics integrator Thales) for its CMA-9000 flight management system and Honeywell, which has agreed to furnish its RE220 APU. Thales also landed a contract to supply and support training equipment, including three flight simulators and three formation system trainers, at a training center in Moscow.

Sukhoi counts firm orders for 30 RRJs from Aeroflot and another 10 from Russia’s Finance Leasing Company. One-time “launch customer” and member of the RRJ airline advisory council Siberian Airlines has allowed its letter of intent for 50 airplanes to expire.