July 16, 2012
Credit: Photo Credit: Aeroflot
Jens Flottau and Graham Warwick Farnborough
Russia's ambitions in civil aerospace are met with skepticism around the world. But with the Sukhoi Superjet in the early phase of revenue service and the MS-21 narrowbody in the midst of development, state-owned United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) is looking at further projects: a 130-seat jet and a new widebody venture.
Neither project is anywhere near certain, but the fact that UAC is even talking about aircraft beyond what it is developing shows the ambitions of the Russian aerospace sector. Government funding will ultimately determine whether the projects will come to pass. Although aerospace has enjoyed backing as a strategic sector, President Vladimir Putin has often voiced frustration over its slow progress.
According to UAC CEO Mikhail Pogosyan, the 130-140-seat aircraft would feature a composite wing and other advanced technologies, but he says it is too soon for a timetable for the project. The aircraft would fill the gap between the Superjet 100 (SSJ100), with fewer than 100 seats, and MS-21, with 150 seats.
Pogosyan told Aviation Week at the air show here that UAC is initially considering a high-density SSJ100 seating configuration for as many as 108 passengers. The next step will be a stretched version likely in the 120-seat range. Sukhoi, a UAC-subsidiary, is at work on extended-range and corporate jet variants.
The SSJ100's reputation suffered a setback after one of the test aircraft crashed in Indonesia on May 9 during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people onboard. No technical issues have emerged in the course of the investigation to date.
Any further product development of the Superjet and the possible launch of the 130-seat jet will depend on the sales success of the current SSJ100, Pogosyan says. He indicates that more detailed studies are to be conducted within the next year.
The prospective 130-140-seat aircraft would compete in what is already a crowded market: Bombardier aims to deliver its first 110-seat CSeries CS100 by the end of next year, followed by the 149-seat CS300. The Airbus A319NEO and Boeing 737 MAX 7 are chalking up orders in the 140-seat segment. Nonetheless, Pogosyan says, “the commercial market is evolving and we see a niche for UAC.”