With engines running, Superjet poised for flight

 - February 27, 2008, 8:50 AM
The Powerjet SaM146 turbofan chosen to power the Sukhoi Superjet 100 finished the first phase of flight testing on the program’s Ilyushin Il-76LL testbed early last month, logging more than 30 flying hours during 14 flights, according to director of SaM146 flight testing Yuri Basyuk. Noting that the program’s various test articles, including engineering prototypes on test stands, had run for more than 800 hours, Basyuk told AIN that the Central Institute of Aviation Motors would issue a permit to fly the engine aboard the first Superjet prototype by the middle of last month.

“We have performed the required number of flights and checked out the engine’s operating modes as specified by the flight program,” he said. “This enables us to decide on the flight tests of the SaM146 engine installed on the Superjet 100.”

By early last month the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Production Association had mounted two SaM146s, supplied by Russian engine partner NPO Saturn, on
the first Superjet 100 flying prototype. Technicians started running the engine on the aircraft for testing and optimizing all the Superjet 100 systems, including fuel supply, hydraulic, electric and air conditioning.

Meanwhile, engineers studied the engine’s performance aboard the Il-76 at various speeds, altitudes and attitudes in preparation for the second phase of testbed flying at the Istres Flight Test Center in France.

The estimated three-month delay of the Superjet’s first flight stemmed largely from postponement of SaM146 flight testing on the Il-76. A change in leadership at the Zhukovsky-based Gromov Flight Research Institute, the organization tasked with testing the engine on the Il-76, coincided with the scheduled start of the project, resulting in the usual bureaucratic quagmire. Only after Yevgeniy Gorbunov, former director of the aviation department of the Federal Agency for Industry (Rosprom), became the institute’s director did testing start in December.

Plans call for four aircraft to participate in the Superjet 100 flight-test program. First flight from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which sources indicated could happen soon after AIN went to press last month, appeared unlikely to carry with it the usual fanfare associated with Western programs, as Sukhoi planned to fly the airplane in private. Following a decades-long tradition, Sukhoi will wait until the second flight to invite media coverage.

Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan said the company bases projected deliveries of 1,800 Superjets over 20 years on two fundamental factors. First, the Russian market will soon witness the rapid retirement of Tu-134 narrowbodies, he told AIN. Second, Sukhoi anticipates significant growth in regional air travel in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

“Our forecast for the development of the regional aircraft market is conservative and takes no account of such scenarios, optimistic for air transportation, as a fall in fuel prices,” said Pogosyan. “Moreover, in the mid-term, the demand for regional aircraft on individual market segments can even pause, especially if these regions already have a sizable fleet of aircraft with comparable capacity.”