PARIS — There is a heated battle going on between regional jet airframers as some large airlines prepare to refresh their smaller jets, and other are ready to buy a brand new fleet. Bombardier is preparing to put their new CSeries aircraft in the air soon, Mitsubishi is wrapping up assembly of their first Mitsubishi Regional Jet, while Embraer has announced the next generation of their E-Jets.
Meanwhile, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 has already entered service with airlines, but you simply do not hear much about this new regional jet. The SSJ100 seats 75-95 passengers, and is in direct competition with the other manufacturer’s regional jets. While there is still some general distrust of Russian built aircraft, the SSJ100 is build with components and systems on a global scale, such as Avionics from Honeywell. Of course, being flown into the side of a volcano during a press flight in Mary 2012 did not help its reputation. This was not an issue with the aircraft, however.
While at the 2013 Paris Air Show, I got a close up look at an Interjet SSJ100, which so far is the only SSJ100 delivered to an airline in the western hemisphere. My expectations for the aircraft were low, as every photo I had previously seen showed a drab interior that lacked any and all inspiration. I was in for a rather big shock from the Mexico City based low cost carrier who has taken delivery of 1 example and has 19 on order.
Upon entering the aircraft, I immediately started to rethink my preconceived notions about the Russian aircraft. The aircraft was bright, clean, visually appealing, and super modern looking. The seats, configured in a 2-3 layout, looked comfortable and spacious before sitting down. Overhead, drop down IFE screens with a crystal clear picture, which is most likely a first for the SSJ100.
Up front, the SSJ100 flight deck looked remarkably like that of an Airbus A320 with its digital flight displays and fly-by-wire side stick controls. Everything you would expect to see on a brand new aircraft was there. I’m still not sure exactly what it is that I was expecting, but I was quite surprised.
Back in the passenger cabin, which was designed by Pininfarina, I took a seat to see just how comfortable the Interjet SSJ100 experience would be. Once again, I was surprised. The 93 seats have a pitch of 34 inches, which rivals JetBlue in the United States, and bests just about any mainline carrier. I had absolutely no problems getting comfortable in my seat, something that I can’t say about most airlines these days.
The Vision System IFE on the Interjet SSJ100 also contains another surprise that is unique to the model. Interjet has installed two exterior cameras on the belly of the aircraft, one looking forward and the other looking backwards. These cameras are always a hit with passengers, and is extremely rare to see on a regional jet. The cameras, however, will most likely only be available during takeoff and landing, as the IFE screens are overhead, and content is predefined during flight.
At the end of my tour, I came away quite impressed with the quality of the SSJ100, as well as the amenities and interior product low cost carrier Interjet has selected. Heck, even the lavatory was quite nice. In fact, on their A320 fleet Interjet is known for their “women only” lavatories. In the near future, Interjet will fly their SSJ100 to Miami, Long Beach, California, and San Antonio, Texas. Interjet is know for a high-quality service and like JetBlue in the United States, has become something of an LCC phenomena.
July 14, 2013 Update: Internet’s first SSJ100 will be delivered to the airline next week and it will enter service in August.