August 2012

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For Sukhoi, 2011 is the stage for Superjet's first test

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Early this year, the first Sukhoi Superjet will be delivered to its first customers, Aermenian carrier Armavia and Russian flag carrier Aeroflot. While the world hasn't seen what the Armavia colors look like on the SSJ100, a sneak peek of the first Aeroflot-painted Superjet was revealed last week on the snowy flight line in Komsomolsk-on-Amur where the aircraft is assembled.

The aircraft, registered RA-89001, is a SSJ100-95LR with a range of 2,110nm and can accomodate up to 98 seats and cover routes from Moscow as far away as Lisbon, Keflavik and Dubai. Granted, those are larger markets where a 100-seater would be too small, but it provides a sense of the cities within the SSJ's range.

As it begins revenue service, Superjet will be facing its first commercial test to validate the reliability of the new jet. Superjet International has said directly that demonstrating the aircraft's reliability and serviceability is the biggest challenge facing the new jet. The VASO An-148 suffered a dismal start to its service in 2010, with Russian state airline GTK Rossiya saying over one 92-day period, one of its aircraft was unfit to fly for 89 days.

The program is still in search of a major Western operator, after Italian flag carrier Alitalia selected the Embraer E-190 over the Superjet, despite outward political pronouncements by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the future of the jet in Italy. 

The 100-seat market will get significantly more crowded in 2011 with the commencement of revenue service of the newly delivered CRJ1000. From a development standpoint, 2011 will bring the commencement of final assembly of Japan's 90-seat Mitsubishi Regional Jet. Additionally, there are perhaps some hints the E-195X may be back on the table for Embraer after being shelved last year year. This year will also begin to bring some clarity from India on its future homegrown regional jet, a prototype of which is expected to fly in 2015 or 2016.

The second decade of the 21st century is about all these new market entrants and 100-seat jets is the first battleground.

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