Is The Sukhoi SJ100 Superjet Making A Comeback?

The Sukhoi SJ100, also known as the SuperJet 100, is a small commercial aircraft built in Russia. It was originally built ten years ago, but recently got the attention of airlines with an amazing 106 orders in 2018 alone. Is the Superjet 100 about to have a comeback and usher in an age of Russian-built aircraft flooding our skies?

Is The Sukhoi SJ100 Superjet Making A Comeback?
The SJ100 has become quite popular in the last year. Photo: SuperJet International

What is the Sukhoi SJ100?

The Sukhoi SJ100 is a regional aircraft that can carry 87 passengers in two classes, or 108 in a single class configuration. There are two ranged variants; one with the standard engines and another redesigned to better compete with the Airbus A220 and Embraer E-jet series. These have ranges of 3,048 km (1,894 mi) and 4,578 km (2,845 mi) respectively. The cabin is typically set out in a 2-3 configuration, much like the Airbus A220.

Typical SJ100 cabin. Photo: SuperJet International

This aircraft was initially built to help Russians cross the vast distance of their country and ensure the strength of their own homegrown aviation industry.

The aircraft was not built without help from fellow aircraft builder Boeing, who agreed to assist with program management, engineering, marketing, product development, certification, supplier management, and customer support. Essentially, Boeing provided enough to call it a partnership between the two builders.

This article would be amiss without mentioning the three hull losses the SJ100 has experienced. Whilst we want to remain positive and focus on the aircraft’s growing popularity, we know our readers would question if we didn’t question its dependability (you can read in greater detail here). But of these three incidences, all were deemed to be due to pilot error and not a fault with the aircraft itself.

How many have been ordered?

Initially, the SJ100 was developed way back in 2000. First orders were placed in July 2005 and its maiden commercial flight was in May 2008.

It’s first and only order in 2005 was for 30 aircraft from the Russian carrier Aeroflot. Naturally, there was some politics in play. Other airlines were a little skeptical about this new Russian regional jet (much like we see with COMAC today).

From there, the aircraft got a trickle of new orders of around 45 units a year, until 2014 when the orders shot up to 145 (the only other order of note was 30 aircraft in 2011 with Mexico’s Interjet). Then in 2018, the airframe builder received four orders of 92 SJ100 aircraft made in letters of intention from S7, Iran Air Tours, Aseman Airlines, and Aero Mongolia.

Then lastly, in late 2018, Aeroflot reached an agreement for 100 Superjets in a two-class layout with 12 business seats and 75 in economy. These were to be delivered from 2019 to 2026. There have been no orders for the aircraft in 2019, although Kom Airlines, a Thai startup, firmed up an order for six aircraft from a 2018 agreement.

An Interjet SJ100. Photo: SuperJet International

What does the future hold for this aircraft?

The next big challenge for the airframe maker is to crack the Western and Southeast Asian markets and sign up a big mainline carrier like British Airways, Qantas or Singapore. These are obviously tall orders and even Airbus has had a bit of a struggle to crack this market with their own Airbus A220 aircraft (although money is on Qantas to soon order some).

As for the US market, it is unlikely that Delta Air Lines, United or American Airlines has really considered the SJ100. The first has already picked the A220 and the latter has decided that it does not even require aircraft with only 100-seats. United remains on the fence but likely they would move towards the Embraer E-jet or the A220.

But with orders slowing down for 2019 and questions raised about their production delays, this comeback story might end before it even began.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!