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Superjet 100 Dealt Blow By Armenian Launch Customer

by Tatiana Smolenskaya,, Moscow

10 August 2012

Armenian airline, Armavia - the launch customer for the Russian-built regional jet, the Superjet 100 - has confirmed that it ceased operating the aircraft in 2011 on safety concerns, and is reportedly seeking to walk away from an agreement to purchase a second aircraft, further damaging the reputation of Russia's new civil aircraft.

Manufacturer, Sukhoi, known for its fighter aircraft, launched the Superjet 100, Russia's first modern commercial regional airliner, in September 2007, under a state-supported program.

However, the aircraft has sustained criticism for potential build quality shortcomings, publicity of which went global when a Superjet 100 demonstration flight carrying journalists and prospective purchasers, mainly of Indonesian origin, crashed on Mount Salak, south of Jakarta on May 9, 2012, killing 45 persons onboard. The cause of the crash has yet to be confirmed and may have been piloting error. At the time of the crash, Armavia said it would continue negotiations to purchase another Superjet 100 for its fleet.

Armavia has attributed the grounding of its Superjet 100 to concerns that the aircraft does not comply with government standards, and has said it may look to return the aircraft to Sukhoi. According to the RIA Novosti news agency, its first aircraft requires repairs, with Armavia unwilling to stump up cash during the aircraft's first year of service, particularly as spare parts are said to be markedly more expensive than those of competing western aircraft despite the Superjet 100's lower selling price.

Concerns will be mounting over the reliability of the aircraft after another damning development, in which Russian airline Aeroflot, which has so far received ten Superjet 100s, was reportedly forced to carry out an emergency landing after one of its aircraft registered a loss of cabin pressure. Aeroflot has ordered a total of 30 aircraft, with options for a further 15.

In a potentially make-or-break development for the project in Indonesia, the Superjet 100 was in late July submitted to Indonesian authorities for certification to allow Sukhoi to begin delivering aircraft to Indonesian operators, Sky Aviation and Kartika who have committed to purchase 30 and 12 aircraft, respectively. The Superjet 100 has most recently received the necessary approvals to operate in Mexican airspace, paving the way for the delivery of 15 aircraft to Mexico's Interjet.

Sukhoi has secured a total of 246 orders with options for a further 99. The project is entering a critical phase with production set to ramp up to delivery of 80 aircraft annually from 2012. Despite strong demand for the aircraft in 2011, Sukhoi has secured orders from only one airline this year, from Russian airline Transaero, for 6 aircraft, with 10 options, with delivery expected in 2015.

TAGS: aviation

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