The prototype of a Russian airliner SJ-100 made by Yakovlev JSC and assembled using only local components took to the skies for the first time in what is anticipated to boost Russia’s civilian airline fleet, which remains under stress due to Western sanctions.
The Russian Industry Minister announced on August 29 that the SJ-100’s flight tested the stability of these locally developed systems. The SJ-100, commonly called the Sukhoi Superjet 100, is a regional Russian jet with a range of about 4,500 kilometers.
The SSJ-New is a variant of the Sukhoi SSJ-100 Superjet with all Russian components, replacing the Western parts that the aircraft was previously equipped with.
The international sanctions imposed on Moscow after it commenced its special military operation in Ukraine last year have made it more challenging for the country’s industry to procure aircraft parts to maintain its aircraft.
“A prototype of the Russian short-haul aircraft SJ-100, manufactured by the Production Center of Yakovlev PJSC in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, made its first flight. During the tests, the stable operation of all domestic systems, the controllability, and stability of the aircraft in the air were confirmed,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov, informed the media that Russian developers and producers were able to implement and install their design solutions and technologies, including avionics, gear, auxiliary power units, electric power supply systems, air conditioning, fire protection, and other systems.
“This is the best display of our country’s technological independence. We have proven – to ourselves, first and foremost – that we can develop and produce modern civilian planes on our own, without the involvement of imported technologies,” said Yury Slyusar, United Aircraft Corporation CEO.
The Ministry added that the second prototype would shortly begin testing with domestically built PD-8 engines, which are presently undergoing tests on a stand and inside the Il-76LL flying laboratory. The prototype, to expedite the trial programs, employed SaM146 French-Russian engines.
According to reports, the flight lasted 54 minutes, reaching speeds of 343 kilometers/hour and heights of up to 3000 meters. The crew carried out a stability and controllability check of the aircraft in the air, a check of the automatic pressure control system in the cabin, a “cloud landing,” and a go-around approach by the flying mission, the Ministry said.
Slyusar further highlighted that the next challenging objective of the country was to certify the jet in its entirely Russian configuration and to start shipping it in bulk to carriers.
The flight was part of the bigger plan to replace imported systems and components and is the result of the combined efforts of numerous Rostec-affiliated radio-electronic and aviation manufacturing companies. Russian designers and manufacturers have effectively incorporated their distinctive design approaches and technological innovations into the aircraft.
Russian Sukhoi Superjet-100 without western parts made its first flight!
Previously, the SSJ-100 aircraft had an engine of the joint Russian-European development SaM-146, but due to sanctions, its production stopped, so the Russians had to create a completely domestic PD-8. pic.twitter.com/G38XFv2mOV
— cvetko35 (@cvetko35) August 29, 2023
The flight was hailed as truly revolutionary and an example of Russian resilience against Western sanctions. Around 40 systems and components were rebuilt for the prototype of the Superjet, causing jubilation among pro-Russian bloggers and netizens.
This is primarily because there have been several reports of Russian commercial airlines crippled under the international sanctions. EurAsian Times reported in May last year that several Russian airlines operating the Sukhoi Superjet 100s (SSJ 100) warned that they would have to ground the planes due to Western sanctions that halted the supply and repair of these aircraft engines.
However, while the pro-Russian netizens rejoiced and celebrated the maiden flight of the Superjet, the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Western internet users questioned the veracity of the claims. They drew attention to the recent reports that suggested Russia was circumventing sanctions and acquiring Western aircraft parts.
What Sanctions? Russia Is Still Procuring Western Aircraft Parts
Months before Russia’s military operation in Ukraine started in February 2022, Western-made planes, including Boeing and Airbus, accounted for about 80 percent of Russia’s fleet, according to an aviation data and analytics firm, Cirium. However, following the imposition of sanctions, foreign leasing companies demanded that their aircraft be returned to them.
In the aftermath, the chairman of the Russian Ministry of Transport said that as of March 22, carriers such as Pobeda, S7, and Nordwind lost 78 foreign aircraft abroad at the request of, or nearly 10% of all foreign aircraft in Russia.
Currently, the only commercial aircraft built entirely in Russia is the Sukhoi Superjet 100. According to the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a division of the state-owned defense giant Rostec, the Superjet is the outcome of a collaboration between designers from “more than 20 world leaders in the aircraft industry,” as stated on their website.
Russian airliners have suffered immensely without crucial aircraft parts required for repair and maintenance. There have been instances when aircraft were grounded. However, they somehow managed to procure Western equipment and were up and about soon after.
A recent report published in Reuters stated that the customs statistics revealed that since the Russian invasion, the Russian Ural Airlines had managed to import over 20 American-made devices in defiance of Western sanctions intended to prevent Russian carriers from acquiring parts for their Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
From May of last year, when most US and European trade restraints and export prohibitions over Ukraine were in effect, to the end of June this year, at least US$1.2 billion worth of aircraft parts flowed to Russian airlines, according to a Reuters examination of the customs records.
The equipment varied from essential parts like coffee machines, phone handsets for flight attendants, and toilet chairs to other spares like Northrop Grumman gadgets, cabin pressure valves, cockpit displays, and landing gear.
The parts reportedly and expectedly arrived in Russia via middlemen in nations like Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, China, and Kyrgyzstan, none of which have approved Western sanctions on Russia, according to customs data.
The US$1.2 billion figure understates the overall worth of aircraft parts imported during the period Reuters examined. It only counts shipments to Russian airlines or their maintenance facilities and excludes aircraft parts shipments to other Russian businesses.
“At first, there was a shock. No one knew what to do,” Oleg Panteleev, head of the AviaPort aviation think-tank in Moscow, told Reuters. “After two to three months, new supply channels were found and, after six or nine months, quite a lot of alternatives appeared, which reduced prices and delivery times.”
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