As the first major airshow of 2021, Russia’s MAKS has filled the void left by the cancellation of the Paris Air Show this year. As the event presses on, the orders keep ticking up. Hot on the heels of the Azimuth order for the A220 yesterday, Rostec has revealed today that it has sold 58 Superjet 100s to four Russian airlines.
‘Russifying’ the domestic fleet
With 58 SSJs sold this week to Russian airlines, there is a clear shift taking place in the strategy of Russia’s domestic airlines. The Superjet was developed to replace aging aircraft from the Yakovlev and Tupolev fleets, and is starting to gain some traction in bringing Russian aviation back home.
In 2007, following several incidents involving Russian-built aircraft, the then Transport Minister Igor Letvin called for Russian airlines to move away from the old Soviet models. As a result, airlines began buying from western manufacturers, but now that’s set to change.
Rostec’s director for international cooperation and regional policy, Viktor Kladov, told Simple Flying at the show that the goal is for all Russian domestic operations to be undertaken by Russian-built aircraft by the end of the decade. Although there are some outstanding orders for western-built aircraft in the pipeline, Kladov says these are for different missions, and that the national operations will be domesticated by 2030.
15 more SSJs and all of the Aeroflot fleet for Rossiya
The first airline is one of Russia’s oldest carriers, Rossiya Airlines. It has signed an agreement at the airshow to purchase 15 additional SSJ100s for its fleet. The airline currently has 34 Superjets in its stable, but is set to get a whole lot more, not just the 15 it ordered this week.
As well as the 15 new jets coming from UAC, the airline will take the entire fleet of its parent company Aeroflot. In total, 84 jets will be transferred to Rossiya, giving it a huge final fleet of 149 SSJs. This includes previous orders, as well as its existing fleet and the new fleet ordered at MAKS and transferred from Aeroflot.
With this, Rossiya will be far and away the largest operator of the SSJ in the world. The 15 new aircraft ordered are expected to be delivered via lessor PSB Aviaprofleasing by the end of this year.
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More planes for Azimuth
The small regional carrier Azimuth clearly has big plans for expansion, as it has also signed up to receive the Superjet 100 for its fleet. At present, Azimuth has just 14 aircraft in its fleet, all from the SSJ-100 family, with six standard and eight long-range variants.
Yesterday, it ordered up six A220-300s from Airbus, becoming the first Russian airline to operate the type. The airline has grown steadily since it was founded in 2017, and is clearly looking to capitalize on the high demand for its services.
Today, the airline has been revealed to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for an additional 10 SSJ100s. Deliveries for these will take a little longer, with the order anticipated to be fulfilled by 2026.
Aurora looks to fleet renewal
Far east Russian airline Aurora is looking to the future with fresh impetus, having broken free from the Aeroflot Group at the end of 2020. Since 2013, Aeroflot had owned 51% of Aurora but divested its stake on Christmas day 2020, leaving Aurora to fly solo from here on out.
Based out of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the airline operates nine A319 narrowbodies, as well as 11 various turboprops from the Dash 8 and Twin Otter families. Apart from the Otters, the fleet is getting old, with the A319s averaging over 15 years of age, and some of the Dash 8s well over 25.
The airline has preliminarily agreed to eight SSJ-100s as part of its fleet modernization strategy. These will be delivered between 2022 and 2024. According to state news outlet TASS, the airline is planning to purchase 45 new aircraft by 2025, including Ilyushin Il-114-300, L-410 NG and LMS aircraft ‘Baikal,’ intending to become a completely Russian-made aircraft operator within the next five years.
A big order for Red Wings
Russian leisure airline Red Wings is also looking to ‘Russify’ its fleet, with the biggest order for the SSJ this week. It has signed up for a total of 25 of the UAC planes, to be delivered this year and next. It already leases seven SJ-100s, so its eventual fleet will number 32, putting it in second position for the largest SSJ fleet in the world.
The SSJ order is a clear expansion move from the Moscow headquartered airline. It also has orders in for 16 of the forthcoming MC-21-300s, which will replace its Airbus A320 family aircraft. The airline has 15 planes split between the A320 and A321, which average over 18 years old, according to data from ch-aviation.
It will be interesting to see if Russia achieves its goal of Russifying the entire domestic fleet by 2030. With new planes coming along and the SSJ-100 proving popular, it’s not unbelievable that this will happen.