Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) has signed a letter of intent with Slovenia’s Adria Airways calling for delivery of up to 15 SSJ100s starting next year, the Russian company announced Monday. The deal comes as SCAC attempts to compensate for the loss of its only Western European operator—Brussels Airlines, which has decided to return all four of its wet-leased SSJ100s to their owner, Ireland’s CitiJet.
Brussels Airlines’s wet-lease contract with the Irish carrier expires at the end of the year. In its negotiations with Adria, SCAC had to offer certain “sweeteners” and more seriously address the issue of aftersales support, the primary reason for decisions by earlier operators to give up flying the SSJ100. The company has scheduled shipments to Adria to occur in “the beginning of 2019,” when Brussel Airlines relinquishes its jets.
Sources close to SCAC told AIN that the 15 aircraft will consist of a mix of new and already built airframes. The parties set the time of delivery and composition of the fleet to ease the Slovenian operator’s mastery of the type and to reduce its costs. According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s minister for industry and trade, Adria will take the airplanes under the terms of a long-term lease deal. “In addition, both parties signed a memorandum of understanding [that calls for] establishing an SSJ100 maintenance and repair organization at [Slovenia’s] Ljubljana Airport.” With that, Adria will become the first European airline with its own maintenance and repair center for the type. Nearby, the manufacturer promises to store spares “to secure the operational reliability of SSJ100 aircraft.”
SCAC historically had been cautious about allowing customers to master the type’s MRO in-house, largely because the core business plan calls for return-on-investment into the SSJ100 development to come largely from services on aftersales support. In fact, SCAC president Alexander Rubtsov and Adria Aviation managing director Martin Vorderwulbecke indicated “the agreements signed opened a new chapter towards a strategic relationship between the parties.”
According to AIN’s sources, while the sides haven’t finalized a financial package to Adria for the SSJ100 project, it “would most certainly involve” not only Russian but also European institutions, as well as vendors that supply SCAC with SSJ100 components. Therefore, the package will resemble those originally developed for Mexico’s InterJet, currently the largest SSJ100 operator outside Russia. “During the past two years we were analyzing the SSJ100 type and came to the conclusion that all the technical and operational characteristics of this aircraft would suit best for our strategic goals,” said Adria CEO Holger Kowarsch. However, he did not mention the likelihood that the airline would benefit from a support package from large banks and export-encouragement agencies based in the countries involved in the SSJ100 industrial effort.