The New York Times is optimistic, but other reports are mixed and the question remains: how is the Sukhoi Superjet 100 program really faring after the terrible May crash of the SSJ in Jakarta? Although the final conclusion has not been issued as to the cause, there has been much speculation surrounding the incident (and even some very strange theories which have been floated). Of course a root cause of the accident matters greatly because if it is determined that the loss of the plane and all aboard was due to a technical or design flaw, Sukhoi will have to spend a lot more time and money investigating, repairing, and trying to regain the trust of the international aviation community.
While it’s not likely that there was a single root cause of failure (usually commercial aviation accidents are due to a calamity of errors), the future of this aircraft depends on which way the public perception leans. So far, it seems like it’s kind of a mixed bag of opinions.
While we’re not fans of the certain pomp-and-circumstance ‘scoreboard-style’ sales tally that comes out of Paris and Farnborough airshows each year, we are currently in the midst of one at exactly the two month point following the Jakarta crash. So it’s a decent gauge to measure near-term customer attitudes around this jet.
So how are sales faring? As noted above, the NYT appears to be relatively optimistic by quoting company spokespeople and not digging too deep (I even had to verify that story was an article, and not a blog post). They even headline that the crash ‘hasn’t hurt orders’.
But there have indeed been a few set backs. First, it was reported by TTRWeekly that Russian airline and SSJ customer Aeroflot was having technical issues with their Superjets and was scaling back usage. However it was later ‘revealed’ by the Aeroflot that most problems were with the innocuous air conditioning system. This article also indicated that the SSJ would not make an appearance at Farnborough, but that was incorrect (it’s there, just not flying), so the validity of this report is probably in question.
Next was an article from Ria reporting that the very first SSJ-100 customer Armavia, the Armenian national carrier, was canceling its order for a second SuperJet. While not a huge impact in quantity, they were a first customer and presumably a big supporter of the program.
On the flip side, there is also some good news for Sukhoi. Bloomberg reports that discount Mexican airline Interjet has solidified an order for five more SuperJets, bringing the carrier’s total SSJ orders to 20 jets, at an estimated value of $700 million USD. That article also quotes Vladimir S. Prisyazhnyuk, president of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, where he said: “In terms of impact on the program, I’d say that not one of them has refused or canceled agreements. They’re still working with us.”
Of course Farnborough performance on its own does not carve one’s future in stone, but in this case it’s an interesting bellwether into the future of this program so soon after a major tragedy. While all eyes are on the final investigation report out of Indonesia, expected within a few months, in the meantime it seems that the accident hasn’t yet destroyed the SuperJet-100 program, but it did not make things any easier for its maker.