During an emergency landing of Sukhoi Superjet 100 Aeroflot in Sheremetyevo, 41 people were killed. The accident was the second in the history of the aircraft for eight years of flights and the first, which may be due to technical reasons. But in the global market, SSJ proved to be uncompetitive due to maintenance difficulties that made it unprofitable for airlines.
Accident and accident. Until May 5, the Superjet suffered only one catastrophe with human victims, and it had nothing to do with technology. In May 2012, the plane crashed into a mountain during a demonstration flight in Indonesia. All on board were killed - 37 passengers and 8 crew members. In the final report on the crash, the Indonesian aviation authorities called it the cause of pilot error and problems with the dispatchers' equipment at Jakarta airport.
The second and last incident with the loss of the aircraft occurred in Yakutsk in the autumn of 2018 - the Superjet rolled out from the runway 250 meters when landing. Passengers and crew were not injured, but the plane had to be written off. The blame in the incident lay on the airport services - the crew, who was sitting on the strip shortened due to reconstruction, were given incorrect information about the coefficient of friction on the runway, and the strip itself was in inappropriate condition.
In total, Aviation Safety Network (ASN), the largest online aviation security database, has four proven Superjet accidents (including the crashes in Indonesia and Sheremetyevo), and none of them were related to the technical problems of the aircraft. ASN users have added 15 more incidents to the database, but in their description serious technical problems are not mentioned.
For comparison, one can cite the figures of one of the competitors of the Superjet, the Brazilian Embraer 170, the smallest of the large regional Embraer regional jets, which was produced in the same small series as the SSJ (190 aircraft were produced from 2004 to 2017). The ASN database contains five confirmed and 54 user-added incidents from the E170. Among them, however, there is not a single accident with the victims or the loss of the aircraft.
Unprofitable aircraft. Problems with pure technology are not often the cause of air crashes - strict regulations on certification and maintenance of aircraft do not allow this. But for the commercial operation of the Superjet, maintenance problems were a major problem. The largest SSJ operator, Aeroflot, and both major foreign customers complained about frequent repairs and lack of spare parts.
Already in the second year of operation of the new aircraft, in 2012, 40% of equipment failures at Aeroflot accounted for 10 Superjet, which accounted for only 8% of its fleet. “There are claims to the SSJ-100, like to any other aircraft during the commissioning phase; there are also to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. But the shortcomings of the SSJ-100 are not of a systemic nature, they are removable, ”a representative of the airline said to Kommersant.
In the summer of 2017, Vedomosti found that the average Superjet raid in the fleet of Russian airlines is 2-3 times lower than foreign aircraft - an average of 3-3.7 hours per day versus 9 hours from Boeing and Airbus. Experts explained this primarily by the lack of spare parts: the Superjet is produced in a small series, third-party companies are not interested in producing components for it, and the United Aircraft Building Corporation (UAC) has state defense orders in priority.
A year later, the situation with the Superjet raid for the better has not changed. Aeroflot did not officially criticize the aircraft, but documents regularly appeared in the media indicating the low quality of the aircraft and its after-sales service. For example, in April 2018, the Russian service BBC got acquainted with the closed Aeroflot report on aviation security in the company for February - more than half of the incidents mentioned in the document came from the Superjet.
Market failure. Like any large aviation project, Superjet was conceived with an eye on export. In 2005, when presenting a project at Le Bourget, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, counted on 800 orders until 2024 — 300 for the Russian market and 500 for foreign customers. By April 2019, 186 airplanes were produced, almost a third of them fly in Aeroflot on non-market conditions, and the only European buyer refused Superjet in early 2019.
For the launch and the largest customer, the state-owned Aeroflot, the imperfection of the new aircraft was compensated for by the super profitable terms of the contracts for its delivery. Now in the park "Aeroflot" 50 of the 186 released in April 2019 aircraft. For this, the company received a discount of almost 50% to the catalog price of the aircraft (a large customer gets discounts for all manufacturers, but rarely exceeds 25%) and, most importantly, guaranteed compensation for downtime due to breakdowns - $ 12,000 per day.
The supplier, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (GSS), in its reporting, called the first big contract with Aeroflot for 30 airplanes "obviously unprofitable." In 2016, about half of the Aeroflot Superjet did not fly at all, but thanks to the compensations, the company could afford it, said a source from Vedomosti, close to UAC. In 2018, sources close to KLA said that because of the compensation, it would be more profitable for Aeroflot to keep the planes on the ground than to use them on the routes.
Other carriers that bought the Superjet did not have such favorable terms. The Russian Red Wings in 2015 was able to achieve a record flight of its five Superjet in 8-9 hours a day, using one of the aircraft "for parts", wrote "Vedomosti". The Mexican Interjet followed the same path. In early 2018, Bloomberg noticed that 4 out of 22 of its SSJ stopped flying because of problems with the engines and began to gradually sort out spare parts for the rest of the aircraft.
Now the most rational reason for the operation of SSJ by Russian airlines is the benefits for buyers of Russian aircraft and subsidies for regional flights. There are 53 regional routes in the corresponding list of Rosaviation, in which Superjet is indicated.
At the beginning of 2019, the only European Superjet buyer, the Irish Cityjet, refused to operate them due to low air raids. Cityjet handed over all of its seven aircraft, along with the crews of the Belgian Brussels Airlines, which had claims to a low car raid.
The first new aircraft. Sukhoi Superjet 100 is the first Russian aircraft developed after 1991 and the first mainline passenger aircraft developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, which in Soviet times specialized in fighter jets. The SSJ is a regional airplane for 95 seats, the Soviet counterparts, which it was designed to replace, are the Tu-134 and Yak-42.
Development of the aircraft began in 2000, he made the first flight in 2008, and commercial operation began in 2011.
In total, about $ 2 billion was spent on the development of the aircraft in 2003-2016, taking into account the exchange rate differences, said UAC at the end of 2017.
Partners Sukhoi in the development of the aircraft were Boeing, French Snecma and Italian Alenia Aeronautica. The share of Russian aircraft components in 2018 was estimated at 35-40%. What components of SSJ are supplied by European and American companies can be clearly seen here.
The Superjet is equipped with SaM-146 engines specially developed for it, which are produced by the joint venture of the Russian NPO Saturn and Snecma.
The reason for the return of Superjet to Sheremetyevo on May 5 was allegedly the failure of control systems and radio communications after a lightning strike. Most of the aviation electronics system for Superjet is supplied by the French Thales - one of the largest players in this market.