Sukhoi wins breakthrough order with Cityjet

Until now the Sukhoi Superjet has been a miserable failure outside the former Soviet Union.

To attract US and European customers the regional jet incorporates Western component, avionic and engine technologies – as well as Italian OEM Alenia as a joint marketing partner – but none have made a difference to foreign sales.

Well, not much: Mexican carrier Interjet did order 30 SSJ100s, 16 of which are now operating, but until this week it was Superjet’s only Western airline customer.

That has now changed with a 15-aircraft order from Dublin-based Cityjet, which operates from London City airport as one of Europe’s leading regional carriers.

Replacing Cityjet’s BAE146 fleet, the 98-seat SSJ100s should be delivered from early 2016 and will come packaged with a 12-year OEM-support agreement.

“We intend introducing the SSJ100 on charter activity in 2016 and we will place it on our London City route network in 2017,” said Cityjet executive chairman Pat Byrne.

The deal stipulates that Cityjet will receive four aircraft next year and 11 in 2017, which appears a preposterously ambitious timetable given that Sukhoi has only delivered a measly 65 aircraft since 2011, and because Cityjet should theoretically be several hundred serial numbers down the slot list.

One suspects, however, that the menagerie of small Russian airlines that comprise much of the present order book will be shunted aside to accommodate a blue-chip European customer.

The real question is whether more European or US airlines will consider the Superjet during a terrible period for international relations.

While it’s true that EU and US sanctions don’t affect civil aircraft manufacture in Russia, many thought that the Ukraine crisis, compounded by Russian action Syria, had doomed Sukhoi’s marketing efforts in the West.

The Cityjet deal, however, proves that Sukhoi remains determined to break into the global aircraft market.

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