During the 2012 Farnborough International airshow, United Aircraft president Mikhail Pogosyan did what no chief executive of a Western aerospace company would even consider: comment publicly on the findings, or lack thereof, by investigators of a fatal accident before the relevant authorities had even issued a preliminary report.
While speaking at a July 8 press conference attended by virtually all the heads of the various companies now operating under the UAC umbrella, Pogosyan issued his own brief preliminary report on the May 9 crash of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 during a demonstration flight in Indonesia in which all 45 occupants died.
According to the UAC boss, the “black boxes” retrieved from the wreckage so far show not a “hint” of technical fault. “We work in close contact with the national safety committee and the investigation board, which is conducting the investigation of the Superjet accident, and we have access to the analysis of the data,” Pogosyan said through an interpreter. “So based on that data we can say there were no technical issues with the aircraft.”
In a seeming contradiction, however, Pogosyan said “it would be premature” to discuss details of the investigation. But the implications of his earlier comments seemed clear: nothing about the airplane caused it to fly directly into the sheer face of a cliff near Mount Salak, some 60 miles south of Jakarta, leaving only pilot error or some unusual natural phenomenon as possible explanations.
Of course, Pogosyan has everything to gain by leaving that impression. The fragile credibility of the Russian effort to compete with Western civil aerospace companies could well hinge on the findings. More immediately, commitments for 40 airplanes to no fewer than three potential customers from Southeast Asia could also hang in the balance. In fact, Pogosyan acknowledged that the accident might result in a “shift” in deliveries to Indonesian airlines, but he asserted that, in general, customer interest in the airplane hasn’t waned. “We keep informing our customers, both potential and existing, of the information that we have on the results of the investigation,” he said.
But to some, leaking the crux of the still preliminary findings to the rest of the world didn’t show good form. Even if he knew for sure that the accident investigators would rule out technical fault, why not wait for the published report? Only time will tell whether or not Pogosyan’s early accounting will prove correct and complete.