Makers of the new Russian Superjet airliner said that they planned to sell 1,800 of the midsize aircraft in 20 years.
The ambitious target was announced after Russia´s Sukhoi joined forces with major western companies — including Boeing as a consultant — to promote the 95-seat aircraft. The plane is due to start tests later this year and go on sale in 2008.
"This is not purely a Russian product. It´s an international product ... The partnership with international companies obviously gives credibility to the project itself and for after-sales support,"said Svetlana Issaeva, vice president of sales at Sukhoi Civil Aircraft.
"No one in the world — neither Boeing nor Airbus — can go it alone. Russia is not different," Issaeva said. "This is probably why we are different from other Russian manufacturers who probably think they can still carry on as they did 20-30 years ago. "
Issaeva was attending a European airlines conference in Athens. Sukhoi, which makes jet fighters, has agreements with Italy´s Alenia Aeronautica and French state-owned jet-engine maker Snecma to sell civilian aircraft. The hope is to revive Russia´s beleaguered commercial aviation manufacturing sector.
Alessandro Franzoni, CEO of the Italy-based joint venture Superjet International, said he planned to sell 1,200 planes by 2028 and a further 600 modified versions including a model for business travelers. He said two-thirds of customers would be outside the former Soviet Union.
"It has Russian aerodynamics, which is excellent ... but it also has a lot of western technology. The engine is a result of French-Russian cooperation, the avionics is French, flight control is German, and the landing gear is French," Franzoni told the AP.
Franzoni said Alenia would acquire a 25 percent stake in Sukhoi´s commercial business, pending approval by Russian authorities.
Franzoni´s company will handle Superjet´s after-sales service worldwide as well as western sales. Costing US$28 million, Superjet would compete with Canada´s Bombarier and Embraer of Brazil in the midsize market which supply growing regional airlines. Demand is also high for 100-seat planes because high fuel costs have made smaller planes less competitive.
"The smaller jet market has come to a standstill ... this is a trend that will not change," Superjet executive Paolo Ravelli-Beaumont.