Superjet begins certification flying

 - December 1, 2008, 7:06 AM

The first flying prototype of the Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ) 100 regional jet, the second airframe built, was handed over to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee Register for certification flying in late October. Four aircraft will participate in the program, and six in general flight testing. Sukhoi director-general Mikhail Pogosyan said that certification is expected in the second half of next year, with first customer deliveries following later in the year. Other sources predict that the airplane will not receive “full” Russian airworthiness approval until early 2010.

Static testing of the first airframe (number one) is under way at the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI). Last month the second flight-test SSJ100 (airframe number three) was awaiting installation of its Power Jet SaM146 engines before joining the certification trials, according to Pogosyan.

The third and fourth flight-test aircraft (numbers four and five) are being fitted with on-board equipment before beginning certification flying scheduled for early next year. Airframe number six was handed over to the Siberian Research Institute for trials aimed at establishing a 70,000 flying-hour airframe life early last month. In September, Sukhoi started to build several initial production SSJ100s.

The airplane was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2007. Aleksey Fedorov, president of state-owned United Aircraft Corp., which oversees Russian aerospace design, manufacturing and sales activity, attributes the delay in flight testing to late delivery of engines by Power Jet, a joint venture between Russia’s NPO Saturn Research and Production Association (Rybinsk) and France’s Snecma (part of the Safran Group).

Some Russian aerospace sources suggest the problems stem from the Russian-manufactured engine components; however, Russian finance minister Aleksey Kudrin said in late October that the delays originated from inadequate management at NPO Saturn. It is understood that plans are afoot to make changes aimed at stabilizing operations.

Analysis of Rybinsk by a Russian Ministry for Industry and Trade commission has found financial irregularities, including failure to repay loans and credits to a number of banks and diversion of funds to share acquisition. Some sources say Saturn will have to repay almost $300 million before year-end, and company management has approached the Russian Bank for Foreign Economic Relations for a loan for the SSJ100 program.

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) and NPO Saturn also have requested the government increase program funding by almost $40 million, driven by growing bank-loan interest rates and materials prices. Additionally, SCAC requires state support for sales and after-

sale maintenance.