Russia’s New Superjet 100

The 95-seater “Superjet 100airplane, manufactured by Russian state-owned company Sukhoi Aviation Company, was unveiled at an elaborate ceremony attended by more than 1,000 foreign and Russian officials and executives including the deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov. After speeches by Ivanov and other VIPs, a large screen was lifted to reveal the red, white and blue Superjet 100 emerging from swirls of dry-ice clouds, accompanied by stirring music. The Superjet 100 is the first Russian built passenger jet that has been produced since the collapse of the Soviet Union and is seen as a milestone in moving toward reviving an aircraft industry that at one time was among the world’s most productive.

Sukhoi is better known for the manufacture of military airplanes, but is motivated to rise to the challenge of commercial aircraft manufacture and has doubled its sales forecast to 1,800 Superjets over the next twenty years. Russia has earmarked $1.4 billion to be spent on the Superjet in an effort to assist its aviation industry to successfully compete in the international market. Sukhoi and Italian Partner, Finmeccanica, have reportedly already received 73 confirmed orders for this new aircraft, mainly from Russian airlines.

Russia is seen by many as having made a sound business decision by breaking into an already competitive market with a smaller airplane, thereby competing with aircraft manufacturers Bombardier Inc of Canada and Brazil manufacturer, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA. However, Sukhoi has plans in the future to challenge Airbus and The Boeing Company with a larger version of the Superjet.

Some have expressed reservations as to the number of Superjets Sukhoi has forecast to sell, seeing it as unrealistically ambitious. Although the new Superjet may be cheaper than its competitors and will, no doubt, be technically sound, many feel that this is a competitive market already adequately provided for by current manufacturers. A big drawback for Sukhoi would be the lack of a product support network on a global scale, which could negatively impact on servicing and maintaining the Superjet. Additionally, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, already a major parts supplier to Boeing, is currently developing a 70 to 90 seat regional airplane and the Chinese state-controlled aviation company is doing the same, with production predicted to start in 2009.

Despite some negative viewpoints though, Russia is justifiably proud of the new Superjet 100 and looks forward to the growth and development of their aviation industry.