Russian air carriers increased their reliance on the ‘domestically built’ Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft after foreign leasing companies demanded that Airbus and Boeing planes used in Russia be returned, due to the Western sanctions imposed on Russia after its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.
According to Russia’s Ministry of Transport, about 10% of all foreign aircraft used by Russian carriers were seized abroad. In response, Russian President Putin signed a “law” allowing Russian airlines to “re-register” foreign-owned airplanes and continue flying them domestically.
But Russian airlines operating the ‘domestic’ Superjet planes most likely will have to ground the aircraft in the very near future as the same Western sanctions on Russia have made it extremely problematic, if possible, at all, to service and maintain the jet engines that were built in ‘partnership’ with a French manufacturer.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 – a regional jet with 98 passenger seats – was developed in cooperation with more than 20 of the world’s leading aircraft engineering companies, according to the manufacturer, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
Few Russian carriers using Superjets have already reported maintenance issues, with one of them saying that if they are not resolved, flights might be suspended as soon as this autumn.
Superjet’s SaM146 turbofan engines are made by PowerJet, a joint venture between France’s Safran Aircraft Engines and Russia’s United Engine Corporation. PowerJet – which is also responsible for after-sales maintenance – stopped dealing with Russian companies due to the sanctions.
As many other components of the liner are also made abroad, the Superjet is likely to stop flying due to ‘the absence of such mundane things as wheels and brakes, various sensors and valves,’ sources close to UAC said.
According to Russia’s Ministry of Transport, around 150 Superjet aircraft are currently in operation in the country.
The Russian government said in March that it would accelerate the production of aircraft using exclusively Russian-made parts. However, according to media reports, a 100% Russian-made Superjet is likely to go into production in 2024 at best.
UAC parent company Rostec issued a statement on Monday, customarily claiming that Russia has ‘practically everything’ to service the Sukhoi Superjet and its engines. According to the state corporation, the issues caused by sanctions are ‘being addressed’ and the aircraft will continue to be used.