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Jakarta Post

Sukhoi Superjet 100: chequered past of Russian aviation hope


    Agence France-Presse

Moscow, Russia   /   Mon, May 6, 2019   /   05:20 pm
 Sukhoi Superjet 100: chequered past of Russian aviation hope photograph taken on July 18, 2017 shows a Rusian Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner taking off for an exhibition flight at the annual air show MAKS in Zhukovsky, some 40 km outside Moscow. A Russian passenger plane Superjet 100 erupted in a huge ball of fire and black smoke after making an emergency landing at Moscow's busiest airport, killing 41 people including at least two children. (Agence France Presse/Mladen Antonov)

Russia's Sukhoi Superjet 100 was the country's first post-Soviet passenger plane and intended to revive the civil aviation industry but it was dogged with problems from the start.

Here is an overview of the jet involved in a runway blaze in Moscow on Sunday in which 41 people died:

- Great expectations -

The mid-range airliner made its first commercial flight in 2011. Ahead of its launch, Sukhoi said it was aiming for 20 percent of the global market in regional passenger planes.

Sukhoi, part of state corporation Russian Technologies, is renowned for military planes.

The giant holding traces its history back to the 1930s in the Soviet Union and is based in the remote far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

The Superjet is produced in partnership with Italy's Alenia Aermacchi, which is part of the aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica.

Carrying up to 98 passengers for distances of up to 4,600 kilometres (1,800 miles), it was designed to compete with similar aircraft produced by Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier.

- Setbacks -

Soon after its launch, a Superjet performing at an Indonesian air show in 2012 slammed into a volcano, killing all 45 on board, in a crash Indonesia blamed on pilot error. 

The planes have also experienced technical mishaps from the start including problems with landing gear and Russia's aviation agency has periodically grounded them. 

The few international airlines that ordered the plane have complained of problems with getting spare parts in time and the plane has come to be seen as unreliable.

The planes are still flown by Mexico's low-cost Interjet but have been dropped by Ireland's CityJet, which also leased planes to Brussels Airlines.

- Aeroflot connection -

National carrier Aeroflot came under heavy pressure from the government to add more Russian planes to its fleet and the plane is also used by several regional Russian airlines.

"Billions of dollars have been invested in this project and continue to be invested," said aviation expert Boris Rybak of Infomost Consulting airline consultancy.

"The vast majority of these planes are in service in Russia... Aeroflot now has 50 Superjet-100s and it has signed a contract for 35 more."

The fleet also includes Airbus and Boeings and Russia's flagship airline has had an excellent safety record for the last two decades.