In The Works: Sukhoi S-21 SSBJ

 - August 4, 2008, 11:12 AM

At best, a total of 300 to 400 supersonic business jets (SSBJs) could be sold over the next 30 years, according to Andrei Ilyin, general director at Sukhoi Civil Aircraft. “The market is too small for competition,” he said. “To become a reality, such an aircraft needs consolidation of manufacturers’ resources.” Thus, Sukhoi and Dassault signed a memorandum of understanding at June’s Paris Air Show that included a provision for the joint feasibility study of an SSBJ.

The document provides a basis for the two manufacturers to undertake studies on various programs, as instructed by Russian and French governments. “This memorandum is just a beginning of our joint work,” Ilyin said. “We have only agreed to look at this possibility. We have yet to determine what the responsibilities of the companies would be, if we decide to jointly produce this airplane.” If everything goes “in the best way,” he said the SSBJ could enter service by 2012, and perhaps as early as 2010.

Sukhoi officials said they believe consolidation should go further and involve U.S. manufacturers also looking at designing an SSBJ. This would encourage international organizations, including ICAO, to more readily establish “societal requirements” for ecological acceptance of supersonic transports. Said Ilyin, “Noise and emission levels are set, but the intensity of the sonic boom is not. Manufacturers cannot go forward without having internationally accepted criteria for sonic-boom assessment.”

The certification basis also needs international attention, as FAR Part 25 airworthiness requirements were written for subsonic airliners. An ideal solution could be a new regulation, but manufacturers might agree to special entries in Part 25 to make it applicable to supersonic transports. Here Ilyin speaks the same language as Airbus senior vice president for engineering Alan Garcia, who told AIN he supports Part 25 amendments as a realistic solution.

Regarding draft SSBJ designs produced by U.S., French and Russian manufacturers, Ilyin maintained they are all similar. He said that although the manufacturers were shaping their aircraft independently, they ended up with the same results, revealing much commonality in technology and operational criteria. “We have all looked at the technologies, rather than airframe design, in detail. In a sense our S-21 is not much different from the Dassault or U.S. SSBJ drawings. And this gives us a basis for a joint effort."