Nov 16, 2022
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“Superjet” lacks a good engine

In the photo: Superjet 100

In the photo: Superjet 100 (Photo: Gavriil Grigorov / TASS)

Russian airlines this year will receive ten Superjet 100 aircraft, of which only seven are completely new aircraft, Izvestia claims, citing sources in the aviation industry and operators. At the same time, at the end of March, the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov promised that a total of at least 19 Superjet 100s would be handed over to customers this year, as foreign equipment was completely enough for them even after the introduction of Western sanctions and the refusal of foreign partners from deliveries to Russia.

So far this year, Azimuth (one new SSJ) and Red Wings (two aircraft not of this year of manufacture) have managed to receive aircraft. Azimut expects delivery of two more machines this year, including one new one. Red Wings plans to receive two new SSJ-100s in December. Rossiya Airlines is also waiting for the replenishment of the fleet with new Superjet this year “in accordance with a previously concluded contract”, their number is not specified.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade confirmed that only one of the new Superjet aircraft has been delivered this year, six more are at the Irkut Corporation’s supply center in Zhukovsky and will be handed over to operators in the near future. The department noted that in total, under the SSJ-100 program, it is planned to deliver “about 10 new aircraft,” but did not name new dates for the remaining three sides. For comparison, last year 24 new cars were delivered, in 2020 – 12.

According to an Izvestia source close to Irkut, the manufacturer simply has nothing to supply now: after the introduction of large-scale Western sanctions against enterprises in the Russian aviation industry in February, the supply of components to the SSJ was completely blocked. The publication assumes that the remaining aircraft can be delivered as early as next year, when UAC enterprises finally switch to the production of an imported version of the aircraft – SSJ-NEW with a domestic engine instead of Sam146, which were produced jointly with French partners Safran.

But, as he told the Free Press aviation expert, editor-in-chief of the portal Roman Gusarovit is the replacement of engines that is the main problem for mass production of the Superjet. On November 14, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced that the authorities would allocate about 44 billion rubles to expand the production of aircraft engines for the entire line of civil and military transport aircraft. Within two years, it is required to launch the production of about 50 PD-8 engines to equip the SSJ-NEW, 20 PS-90A engines for the medium-haul Tu-214, 14 PD-14 engines for the future flagship of Russian aviation MS-21.

According to Gusarov, if the issue of PD-8 engines cannot be resolved within a few years, it will be extremely problematic to fulfill the plans of the Ministry of Industry and Trade to produce 142 aircraft of this type by 2030.

— It would be possible to deliver 19 Superjet 100s this year, but a reasonable compromise is needed. I think the authorities felt that in the current circumstances it is more important to have a stock of parts for aircraft that are already in service, since there is no guarantee that these parts will be available in the future. It is much more unpleasant if, due to their shortage, planes that are already flying begin to stop.

In addition, the process of creating an import-substituting SSJ-NEW, which will include other components produced in Russia, is underway. It makes little sense to saturate the market with aircraft of the previous configuration. On the contrary, it will be necessary to solve something with those machines that are already flying, somehow re-equip them for new systems. And this is a difficult question.

The imported Superjet is not a complete copy of the current one. In fact, this is a new modification, and it will not be possible to simply take one of its systems and put it on an old aircraft. Perhaps it would make sense to completely re-equip them after some time, for example, after a major overhaul, and return it to operation in a new look. Especially when it comes to the engine – the most complex and main element.

It is assumed that the new aircraft will fly on domestic PD-8 engines, and this is a serious modification associated with almost all aircraft systems, from fuel to electronics. Therefore, it was wise to produce the optimal number of aircraft this year, keep a stock of components and switch to Superjet in a new look. Now the import-substituting SSJ is assembled at the plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, its first flight is expected next year.

“SP”: – That is, it will be, in fact, a new model, does it need new airworthiness certificates?

– No, the model is the same, but additions to the certificate must be obtained. If you take one of the world’s most popular aircraft, the Boeing 737, it made its first flight many decades ago. In the modern modification of the Boeing-737 MAX, there is almost nothing left of that aircraft, however, it is still the same model, it just evolved.

The same thing happens with any aircraft. Superjet has been taking us for 11 years. Now its new modification is being created, new systems, an engine will be tested, additions to the type certificate will be received for all this. As far as I know, not only the filling is being updated, but even the fuselage. Before this aircraft takes off, it must pass factory tests, then certification tests, and only after that go into production.

But if certification tests take a year or two, then you do not need to repeat the entire cycle for the upgraded version. Only the changes made are tested, so a year is enough to certify the aircraft, the serial production of which is planned to start in 2024. But there is an important point that has not yet been clarified – this is the replacement of the engine.

“SP”: – What is the ambiguity here?

– So far, I do not see signals from the United Aircraft Corporation that the engine will be ready by this date. There is hope, but it is fading away every month. This is a brand new engine and must be separately tested and certified before being put on a Superjet wing and certified in an aircraft. These are two separate steps.

For example, the PD-14 engine was certified in 2020, in the past it was installed on the MS-21 aircraft. More than a year has passed – and the aircraft with this engine has not yet been certified. If we want to get a completely updated SSJ-NEW with a new engine in 2024, it should get under the wing at least in the middle of 2023, but so far this stage is very far away, the engine has not even been fully assembled yet. There is no ready-made working engine that could be hung on a flying laboratory for testing. If everything happens at an accelerated pace and without failures, there are, at best, two more years ahead. If they succeed in 2025, it will be a success.

“SP”: – In this case, will it be possible to fulfill the plan for the supply of 142 Superjet by 2030, do we have such capacities?

– The capacity is enough to produce twice as many aircraft. Production in the same Komsomolsk-on-Amur quietly produces about 20 aircraft per year, the maximum figure can reach 40 aircraft. It was just that later these rates were reduced because there were difficulties with the implementation – the market did not need such a number of aircraft of this class. So the task for the UAC is quite real, but only if at least in 2025 the serial production of this aircraft is launched. If there are delays, and then in three years it will be necessary to quickly catch up on everything, this is already more difficult.

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