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article imageSukhoi Superjet 100: chequered past of Russian aviation hope

By AFP     May 6, 2019 in Technology

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 was Russia's first post-Soviet passenger plane and was intended to revive the country's civil aviation industry.

But it has been dogged with problems, including technical issues.

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 wanted to win 20 percent of the global market in regional passenger planes.

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

The aircraft manufacturer 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.

French defence group Thales developed the electronic equipment on board while the landing gear was created by France's Safran Aircraft Engines, which also designed and produces the engines jointly with a Russian partner.

Carrying up to 98 passengers for distances of up to 4,600 kilometres (1,800 miles), the plane 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 people on board.

Officials in Indonesia blamed the crash on pilot error.

Technical issues have also occurred, including problems with the Superjet 100's landing gear.

Russia's aviation agency has periodically grounded them as a result.

Sukhoi Superjet 100
Sukhoi Superjet 100
al/gal/js, AFP

The few international airlines to have ordered the plane have complained about problems with getting spare parts in time.

Many in the industry view the plane 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.

Sunday's crash landing has not prompted Russia to ground Sukhoi Superjet planes.

"There is no reason" to do this, said Transport Minister Yevgeny Ditrikh, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

- Aeroflot connection -

National carrier Aeroflot has been under pressure for decades from the government to add more Russian planes to its fleet.

It has invested in Sukhoi Superjet 100 jets, as have 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."

Aeroflot's fleet of aircraft also includes Airbus and Boeing planes.

Aeroflot used to have a troubled safety record, but since post-Soviet times it has modernised and has a safe, reliable fleet of aircraft.

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