Western experts are cautious about the potential of new Russian aircraft

Western experts are cautious about the potential of new Russian aircraft

Airlines are always wary of new aircraft, especially if they are manufactured by a previously unknown company. Quite a vivid example of this is the Brazilian company Embraer, which took about two decades to establish itself firmly in the civil aviation market.

Exactly the same opinion develops among Western analysts and in relation to the Russian company Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (GSS). Earlier, the Sukhoi corporation was known exclusively for its supersonic jet fighters, so it did not have initial confidence in the civil aviation market.

Errors with the air conditioning system, which arose after the transfer of one of the first SSJ100 aircraft to Aeroflot, only reinforced such an ambiguous attitude of Western experts to the offspring of the Russian aircraft industry. Of course, the mistakes were corrected, but they once again speak about how difficult the GSS path will be to gain the confidence of foreign carriers. According to analysts, the Russian aviation industry has been exposed to security problems, failures and severe disasters for too long. As a result, this led to the fact that the products of the domestic aviation industry agreed to buy only the former Soviet republics, Iran, Cuba and a number of African countries.

According to Ascend analyst Les Wiel, historically, the Russian aircraft had a peculiar image, but the Superjet airliner in many respects surpassed analysts' expectations. However, the great demand for this aircraft from western airlines is not expected, since these carriers may take a long time to gain confidence.

But in the GSS, however, they have high hopes for Superjet aircraft. The catalog price of the new liner is $ 31,7 million, so it is cheaper by about one third compared to the aircraft of a comparable class, which are produced by Bombardier and Embraer.

Western experts highly appreciate the interior of a Russian airliner, noting that the well-known Tu-154 and Tu-134 airplanes have a gloomy upholstery, dim lighted and dull interiors, are a thing of the past. Also, the SaM-146 engines with a high bypass ratio, which, unlike their predecessors, have become much quieter, also deserve praise.

GSS expect to implement a total of over 800 Superjet aircraft in the coming 20 years. Two liners are already being operated by Aeroflot, another one is flying the flag of the Armenian Armavia. In general, Sukhoi corporation has received more than 170 orders for SSJ100 aircraft at the moment, with foreign airlines being among the customers.

One of the features of the GSS marketing strategy is that it was not the Siberian roots of the aircraft that were the cause of the wrong associations that were emphasized, but the participation of French and Italian partners in the project, in particular in the development of engines and avionics for Superjet aircraft. Perhaps such a move would be truly justified, given the company's desire to sell the aircraft on the world market.

By the way, for some Western airlines, one of the basic requirements is the exceptionally immaculate safety of airliners. For example, in the budget airline Ryanair are ready to buy Russian-made aircraft, provided that they meet the safety requirements of the European Union. It is noted that passengers are mostly familiar only with the name of the carrier, and on which plane to fly - very few people ask this question. As for the Superjet aircraft itself, Ryanair noted that these airliners are too small for the airline’s route network, while the reputation of Russian airliners is already in the background.

The problems found in summer in the air conditioning system of one of the Aeroflot airline's SSJ100 liners were uncritical and were caused by faults in one of the sensors. However, the flights of the aircraft were suspended, which demonstrates a new safety culture from Russian aircraft manufacturers. In addition, when commissioning this aircraft, it was revealed that it is two tons heavier than the originally declared mass. This in turn affects the fuel efficiency of the aircraft and its flight characteristics. However, as noted in the GSS, such deviations are quite typical for new aircraft.

In recent years, Soviet and Russian aircraft have gained notoriety because of a whole series of major plane crashes. Such circumstances, of course, affect the commercial attractiveness of the Russian product. International experts cite the age of airplanes as one of the causes of such catastrophes; however, a safety culture in the Russian aviation industry also plays a significant role in such incidents. In particular, Western analysts once again recall the incident with 70 engineers who worked in the GSS, who settled for their positions with fake diplomas. True, the company itself noted that these employees did not participate in the production of Superjet liners.

Barriers to barriers often prevent new aircraft manufacturers from entering the world market, but now airlines are seeking to find an alternative to Bombardier and Embraer products, at least in the GSS. In addition, some carriers are looking for an alternative to such recognized liners as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320neo. One such example is Ryanair, which is negotiating the purchase of C919 and MC-21 liners.

Soon, SSJ100 can receive an EASA type certificate, which will open the way for it to ship to Europe. Regarding the FAA certificate in the GSS, it is noted that participation in this certification program will take place only if a firm order is received from the USA. At the same time, Superjet International believes that customers from the United States will once be interested in a Russian airliner.

At this time, Irkut Corporation continues to work on the MC-21 airliner, whose first flight is scheduled for 2014. To date, about 200 orders have been received for a new narrow-body aircraft, and work is underway on the final assembly of the airliner in Irkutsk. Certification of the aircraft should be completed in 2016, and the first deliveries will begin in 2017. According to the management of the Irkut Corporation, the design of the aircraft should be completed by the end of 2012. In total, Irkut expects to release around 1200 MS-21 aircraft in various modifications .

Obviously, at the first stage, Irkut will have to compete not only with the products of the Boeing and Airbus concerns, but also with the new narrow-body airliner C919, which is being developed by Comac. Both airplanes - C919 and MC-21 - should perform the first flight in 2014. There are no doubts about the plans of Irkut, but experts have such doubts about Comac. In part, such concerns are related to the delay in the development program of the regional airliner ARJ21. Moreover, Comac faced delays at the moment when it was necessary to direct extensive resources to work with the C919 project.

Delivery of the first ARJ21 this year, for sure, will not take place. At least, Western experts are sure of this. However, it is not completely clear how much the delays in the ARJ21 program will affect the C919 project.

However, the most serious problems for the new MC-21 and C919 airliners are the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX remanufactured aircraft. It is clear that the updated liners from the two giants of the aircraft industry will be more efficient, and therefore cheaper to operate. For example, Airbus claims that A320neo aircraft will consume less fuel on the 15% than their predecessors.

The company Boeing, in turn, argue that their remanufactured 737 MAX airliners will be 4% more efficient than A320neo aircraft. At the same time, Airbus has already received more than 1200 contracts and commitments to buy A320neo airliners, while Boeing received about 500 contracts and commitments.

How effective the MS-21 and C919 aircraft will be in comparison with Boeing and Airbus products is not yet known. But the leadership of both Comac and Irkut is confident that there will be room for two additional aircraft manufacturers on the narrow-body aircraft market, but competition will not be easy. One of the ways to successfully combat Boeing and Airbus is to offer quality and effective products at lower prices.

According to Comac's plans, the C919 liner will be commissioned in 2016, that is, in the same year as the A320neo. At the same time, Comac management stresses that the A320neo is a remotorized aircraft, while the C919 is being designed from scratch, which will allow designers to fully realize the potential of the new CFM Leap-X engines. By the way, MC-21 will be put into operation a year later A320neo.

Western experts still ambiguously assess the potential of C919 and MC-21 projects on the world market, believing that it will be rather difficult to break the duopoly of Boeing and Airbus. However, the prospects for these projects in the domestic markets are quite bright. Both in Russia and in China, local carriers are likely to use the products of their aircraft industry, but whether such demand will be sufficient for the effective implementation of programs is still unknown.

Bombardier, meanwhile, continues to work on the CSeries project and quite appreciates the prospects of its airliner, noting that the aircraft should go into service in 2013, as planned earlier. The first flight of the CSeries liner is to take place at the end of 2012. At the same time, as the Bombardier management notes, the company has recently encountered a number of problems, but they should not affect the progress of work on this project.

Currently, Bombardier engineers are paying close attention to the system of electrical remote control, as well as avionics and power supply systems. Also, according to the company's management, it is necessary to pay attention to the composite wing and separate sections of the fuselage, which are manufactured in China. It is not specified what problems the Canadian aircraft manufacturer faced, but the position of the leaders of Bombardier does not yet cause experts pessimism regarding the future of the CSeries project.

According to Bombardier estimates, in the next 20 years around 7 thousand aircraft with a capacity from 100 to 149 people will be in demand on the world market. Moreover, CSeries is one of the best options in this segment along with A319neo and 737-700 MAX. But as Guy Ashi, the head of the Canadian Bombardier, says, Airbus and Boeing liners will be heavier than CSeries airplanes, and their deliveries will begin several years after the Bombardier airplanes were put into operation.

Bombardier does not intend to stop the production of aircraft of the CRJ family, despite the fact that the demand for this model has recently dropped sharply. Perhaps in the next decade, the CRJ family will be replaced by a new model, since at present Bombardier simply does not have enough resources to launch a new program.

Also unknown is the fate of the extended version of the Q400 turboprop aircraft, the creation of which was previously considered in Bombardier. Q400 recently discovered new markets, including India, so this model still has prospects for continuing the life cycle. Currently, the Canadian company management is considering two options: the creation of an elongated version of this aircraft, or the development of a completely new model. But it is obvious that the priority of this program is also quite low.

According to G. Ashi, Bombardier has certain difficulties with financing its projects, especially given the difficult economic situation in the Eurozone. As a result, Bombardier is looking for other sources of financing, including a number of Asian banks. Be that as it may, but so far Bombardier is not particularly worried about the company's financial condition, noting that the revenue of the aircraft manufacturer is at an acceptable level. In the long run, Bombardier can transfer part of its production outside Canada, as the infrastructure of the company is already expanding in Mexico and recruiting staff is being made in India.

The review is based on Aviation Week, Flightglobal and the New York Times.
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