The Russian MRO sector has seen rapid change in the past decade. The demand for maintenance of Western aircraft types has been growing since the mid-2000s when the local carriers started to renew their aging Soviet-era fleets.
This made the Russian market attractive for foreign MRO providers, but at the same time prompted Russian companies to put aside their maintenance experience on domestically produced aircraft and quickly learn to service foreign types.
This situation could change again as more new Russian-made types enter airline service.
This April marked five years since the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the first Russian commercial aircraft developed in the post-Soviet era, entered commercial service. The SSJ100 fleet worldwide has logged 171,702 flight hours, or 117,769 flight cycles, since the beginning of operations, reports Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, the type’s manufacturer.
Its first operator—Armenian carrier Armavia—has not lived to see this anniversary, as it went bankrupt in 2013. But this didn’t affect the fate of the aircraft itself, as the fleet of SSJ 100s keeps growing both in Russia and abroad.
United Aircraft Corp., Sukhoi’s parent company, recently reported it plans to sell 27 SSJ100s in 2016, 34 in 2017 and 38 airframes in 2018.
As of the end of April, 68 aircraft of the type have entered commercial operations, including 47 in Russia. Aeroflot remains the largest operator and customer for the type. It already has received 27 of the 30 ordered airframes and has options for 20 more. Besides Aeroflot, the SSJ100 is operated in Russia by Gazprom Avia (10 aircraft), Red Wings (5), Yakutia (2) and Yamal (1). Two more jets are used for government charters.
Last year, SSJ100 operations amounted to 0.81% of total passenger- kilometer traffic in Russia, or 1,838 million passenger kilometers. This was enough for the aircraft to become the most popular domestically made type, given the market is dominated by foreign aircraft manufacturers.
The only foreign SSJ100 operator now is Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet, which has a fleet of 21, but London-based CityJet expects to receive its first Superjet in May.
The strong Russian government support in all stages, from production to leasing, suggests that the SSJ100 fleet will keep growing, which will increase the demand for SSJ100 maintenance.
The SSJ100 maintenance system seems to be evolving as the fleet grows. At the initial stages of the program, the after-sale support was handled entirely by SuperJet International, a joint venture between Alenia Aermacchi and Sukhoi. Suhkoi Civil Aircraft was also certified under the Russian FAP-145 rules to perform SSJ100 maintenance at its service center in Zhukovsky, near Moscow.
Russian carriers such as Aeroflot and Yakutia have quickly developed expertise to maintain SSJ100s at their own facilities. These carriers can now independently perform all types of Superjet 100 maintenance, including the heavy checks. Yakutia was first to perform C checks on both of its aircraft. They were done by the airline’s subsidiary, Yakutia Technics, at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015.
Aeroflot performed its first C check on the SSJ100 in May 2015, almost four years after it started the type operations.
Gazprom Avia learned how to carry out its own SSJ100 line maintenance up to A checks but has said that it will look for an independent provider for heavy checks.
This now makes sense, as S7 Engineering, a subsidiary of Russia’s largest independent MRO provider, Engineering Holding, was certified for any types of SSJ100 maintenance, including component repairs, at the end of February. This returns the company to servicing Russian aircraft at its facility at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, which stopped servicing Soviet-era models a few years ago.
Although the Domodedovo site has been approved for all types of SSJ- 100 checks, S7 Engineering’s branch in Mineralnye Vody can do only line maintenance.
Some instruments and equipment have been leased from Sukhoi Civil Aircraft to minimize the production expenses, says Oleg Gomolzin, quality director at S7 Engineering.
The company already has attracted business from Red Wings Airlines. The carrier’s deputy technical director, Andrey Kolmogortsev, tells Aviation Week that it has signed a long-term agreement with the provider. The first SSJ100 underwent an A check in April, and the carrier plans to perform two C checks on this type this autumn.
According to Kolmogortsev, the airline turned to S7 because its previous provider, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, was unable to perform the maintenance because its FAP-145 certificate had been canceled.
According to the industry’s sources, it will take the SSJ100 manufacturer two or three months to remedy non-compliances revealed by the inspection of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency. After that, the company has to be certified under the new FAP-285 rules that have replaced the older FAP-145 regulations.
Sukhoi’s certification problems could create an advantage for S7 Engineering to attract more SSJ100 operators. “We are ready to provide maintenance services to Yamal airlines, I think we can agree because we have long history of successful cooperation on other aircraft types,” says Engineering Holdings’ deputy director of planning and sales, Igor Panshin. “But our main target is Aeroflot.”
For the time being, S7 Engineering does not face strong competition in this segment. Among independent providers, FAP-145 approvals for SSJ100 maintenance have only been given to Lithuanian company FL Technics and Latvian Aviatechservice so far.
This article was originally published on May 19, 2016.