The end of this summer and all of the fall were quite intense for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 program. The new Russian regional airliner’s manufacturer Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) saw its backlog grow impressively, and received positive news about the initial operation results of its brainchild in Latin America and Asia.
The total number of SSJ100 orders reached 200 at the MAKS 2013 aerospace exhibition in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, in August. On the first day of the show, Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) firmed up 20 preliminary orders. Five of the aircraft, in the SSJ100LR long-range variant, are to be delivered to an as-yet undisclosed customer from late 2015. Thinner seats will allow for extending these airliners’ capacity to 103 passengers. The rest of the IFC aircraft will come in the baseline variant; these will be delivered to customers in Southeast Asia and the Middle East in 2015.
Another Russian lessor, Sberbank Leasing, used MAKS to sign a $700 million preliminary agreement with SCAC for the delivery of 20 aircraft. The parties also announced during the show that they will set up a joint venture to promote SSJ 100 sales in Russia and abroad.
Another customer at MAKS was AviaAm Leasing, a subsidiary of Lithuania-based Avia Solutions Group, which signed an MoU for the purchase of five aircraft. The deal is valued at $100 million, with deliveries expected to start in 2014. According to SCAC President Andrey Kalinovsky, Avia Solutions Group’s other subsidiary, FL Technics, has already set up a spare parts warehouse in Malaysia to support SSJ100 operations in Indonesia and Laos.
In a yet another development, UTair Aviation, Russia’s third largest airline for passengers carried, placed an order for six SSJ100s through the VEB Leasing company with deliveries from 2014. The deal is part of an MoU for 24 aircraft signed by UTair and SCAC in November 2010.
Finally, Russia’s arms trade monopoly Rosoboronexport became the launch customer for the VIP-configured SSJ100. The aircraft is based on the SSJ100 Basic variant and features a luxurious cabin seating up to 19 passengers. Rosoboronexport’s single aircraft on order should be delivered later this autumn. SCAC is also working on a more specialized Sukhoi Business Jet variant, which is expected to be ready for market entry in 2015.
In August this year, the Aviation Register arm of CIS-wide Interstate Aviation Committee certified the aircraft’s SSJ100LR long-range version. This variant has a range of 4,578 km, against the baseline version’s 3,048 km; its MTOW has been increased to 49.5 tons, and it has a reinforced wing. The LR version is powered by a pair of NPO Saturn-Snecma SaM146 1S18 engines, which offer 5% higher take-off thrust (16,100 lbf) compared with the standard SaM-146 design. Gazpromavia, a subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom, became the launch customer for the long-range version; its first aircraft carry 90 passengers in an all-economy configuration. The first example has already been delivered; the other nine aircraft on order will follow by 2015.
Other SSJ100 deliveries in 2013 included two to Aeroflot, one to Yakutia, and one to Moskovia – all three are Russian carriers. Foreign deliveries, one each, went to Laos’ Lao Central and Indonesia’s Sky Aviation. The type also began revenue flights with Mexican carrier Interjet, the first SSJ100 customer in the Americas.
Interjet’s first aircraft was delivered by SuperJet International (SJI), Sukhoi’s JV with Alenia Aermacchi, at the Paris Air Show 2013. The second one followed in early August, and the third made it to Mexico under its own steam in November. In all, Interjet expects to receive eight of the type by the end of the year, out of the 20 on order. The remaining 12 airframes should be delivered during 2014. The carrier also has an option for 10 more.
The first two Interjet SSJ100s entered service in mid-September. By the end of October they had performed over 580 revenue flights for a total of around 600 hours, or 9.74 hours per day on average.
Interjet’s SSJ100s fly from Mexico City to Torreon, Aguascalientes, Campeche, Minatitlan, Zacatecas, and Mazatlan. The airline estimates the average sector length at about one hour’s flight time, and says the fleet’s maximum combined time in the air exceeds 11 hours per day.
"We are very proud of the new SSJ100: it is currently the only regional aircraft with a five-abreast configuration, enabling mainline comfort with reduced operating costs and the flexibility of a regional jet to be operated in small airports," says Interjet CEO Jose Luis Garza, adding that these aircraft will serve Mexico’s domestic mid-density routes as well as some short-haul international ones.
Interjet’s SSJ100s have 99.03% despatch reliability. Oscar Ruiz, Interjet Technical Director, says any technical issues are rectified during the nighttime, so the aircraft is serviceable again the next morning. The airline makes use of parts depots in Miami and Frankfurt. The former ships on the next day, the latter takes two days to deliver. Critical parts and no-go items are stored in Mexico.
SCAC and SJI view Interjet’s operating results as an essential component of their drive to promote the SSJ100 on the global market. SCAC is planning to have built 26 of the type in 2013. President Andrey Kalinovsky has predicted earlier that the production cycle per airframe would be brought down to 10 days by year-end, translating to an output capacity of around three airframes per month. Green aircraft get delivered to two customization centres, either in Ulyuanovsk or in Venice, where they are outfitted depending on the customer preferences. Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), of which SCAC is a subsidiary, forecasts that SSJ100 output will grow by 54% to 40 airframes next year.
Despite the ramp-up, SCAC so far cannot boast solid financial indicators. Its revenue for the first nine months of the year amounted to 3.518 billion rubles ($110 million), or 14.2% down year-on-year from 2012. "This drop is to a large extent explained by objective factors, including insufficient development of sales financing mechanisms, as well as losses incurred from sales to the launch customers," the company notes.
SCAC’s RAS net loss for the first three quarters of the year amounted to 7.285 billion rubles, or 2.8 times more than the same period in 2012. However, UAC says the company’s financial situation is within the approved business plan, which calls for the first operating revenue to be received in 2014, and for the business to break even in 2018.
As a part of the rescue plan, Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank will become a participant in the SSJ100 program through a stake in SCAC parent company Sukhoi. The decision was approved by the bank’s supervisory board in September. "We will become [a shareholder] to the extent and on the conditions that will not damage the financial stability of Vnesheconombank", VEB Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev explained. Sukhoi currently holds 72% in SCAC; 25% belongs to Alenia Aermacchi of Italy, and 3% is held by Sukhoi Design Bureau.
Vnesheconombank can now convert into the Sukhoi shares some of the $633 million debt owed by SCAC as part of a $1 billion credit line opened in 2012. The Russian government has permitted Vnesheconombank to spend some of the money received from the sale of its EADS stake on buying Sukhoi shares. As a result, the bank may end up controlling up to 33% in Sukhoi.