I was surfing around the aviation webs a few days ago, and I came across one of the coolest aircraft testing photos for a commercial airliner I’ve ever seen. Apparently, it’s a few years old, but I don’t care, it’s awesome. (Click it for high-res wonder.) Yes, it’s an airliner chasing the open cargo door of a military transport plane. (Pictures provided by Reddit user susuhead – new pics at bottom)
Now, after you’ve taken a minute to grasp the coolness of this photo, you may next say to yourself “wait, that looks like an airliner chasing some type of military transport but it doesn’t look like a Boeing or Airbus! How can this be?! (There can be only one! …or… two! (Airbus-Boeing) Right?”
At least, that’s what I asked myself after I saw this picture. So I did some digging, and found a few answers to my questions around the existence of this aircraft (and this picture).
What is a Sukhoi Superjet you ask?
I have, of course, previously heard of Sukhoi aircraft, so I was not surprised to see that name next to an airplane. I was however surprised to see the name next to an airliner. You (aviation fans) also probably know the company as the maker of the infamous ‘SU-xx’ brand of military Russian jet fighter aircraft, and most notoriously, the famed “Flanker” family of Russian fighters including the SU-27, SU-30 (pictured left below), and SU-35.
I have also heard of Sukhoi in relation to acrobatic flying. In particular, the Su-26 aerobatic plane, which I have never seen in person but have seen as a radio controlled model. Honestly, I’ve never seen any Sukhoi airplane in person, but that’s irrelevant.
In 1984, Sukhoi started branching out from the fighter realm with the SU-26, their first real venture into civilian aviation. This was a high-performance aerobatic plane in the same category (although not the same generation) as the Extra EA-300 or CAP-232. The ’26’ was then followed by two variants, the SU-29 and SU-31 in 1991 and 1992. Then, sometime around 2001, they began selling the much more utilitarian SU-80 cargo plane and the strictly utilitarian SU-38L agricultural aircraft.
No Problem: Airliners
Basically, every airplane Sukhoi had made in its history until the early 2000’s held no more than two people. Then, with the SU-80 they realized planes can hold more people, and so to make a long story short, the company decided that the jump from ultra-maneuverable fighters that blow things up, and sport planes that fly inverted at airshows, (and sometimes a combination of the two), to making people carriers wasn’t a big a leap. I might beg to differ, but in 2007 Sukhoi began flight testing their first major airliner, the SuperJet-100, which is the top picture and the reason for this post. In 2008, they began producing it.
Being the brainchild of what has been primarily a jet fighter company, the Superjet looks pretty good. And of course I mean that in a strictly B-737-related kind of way (that’s not to say I think all Sukhoi’s look good. Case in point the ‘34‘ oof). But in general the SSJ isn’t so bad.
Now to compare the SuperJet-100 to the 737 isn’t entirely fair. It’s not as big as a typical 737-800. Wiki says it more closely competes with smaller movers like those from Bombadier and Embraer (it actually looks quite a bit like the new E-Jets). Here are some specs from the manufacturer and a great cutaway of the jet via flightglobal.com
For more specs and an in-depth analysis of the Sukhoi Superjet 100, FlightGlobal has wonderful feature devoted to the SuperJet, which is very detailed and analyitical.
Back to the photo that started this post. Once I found the picture at the top, I first put it on Reddit, at which point user ‘susuhead‘ mentioned in the comments the name of the photographer who took the photo as well as the cargo plane used. Apparently, the photographer is a famous Japanese aviation photographer by the name of Katsuhiko Tokunaga (here’s his wiki page and here’s his website). The airplane used was an Alenia C-27J Spartan.
There are other photos from the shoot here on Flickr.
I will leave you with another great picture of the jet, this one from wikipedia.