MIAMI — On a Thursday night inside a maintenance hangar in Toluca, Mexico, something special happened. No, there was no actual maintenance going on, but something better was happening. Low cost Mexican airline Interjet rolled in their first Sukhoi Superjet 100 in front of hundreds of employees, members of the media, and government officials. This event signaled the first Russian built Sukhoi Superjet to be delivered to a western country, a feat both Interjet and Superjet International are extremely proud of.
Designed as a collaboration between Russian, French, and Italian companies, the Superjet 100 really is a unique aircraft. The SuperJet 100 will open up new regional markets for Interjet, and they hope to be able to lower fares substantially in cities where their Airbus A320 is simply too large. One example given would lower the fare on a regional route from 7,000 pesos to about 1,500 pesos each way, but whether or not that actually materializes has yet to be seen.
Throughout the press conference preceding the celebration, there was a bit of reminding the crowd about the successful past of the Russian aerospace industry, citing that Russia won the space race, and that any preconceived notions about Russian built aircraft are simply due to their age, not craftsmanship or mechanical flaws. The General Director of Superjet International, Sr. Naario Caucegila, also mentioned that despite the two previous SSJ100 accidents, there was absolutely no relationship between the aircraft and the accident, and their reputation will not suffer in any way because of them. SCAC has delivered 19 SSJ100s to 7 customers, which have chalked up more then 20,000 hours of flight time but there have been no western orders. “When you hear Russian airplane, it’s natural to have doubts for various reasons,” Interjet CEO Miguel Aleman Magnani said at a press conference before the unveiling event. CEO of SuperJet International Nazario Cauceglia, clearly gratified said “I would never end thanking Interjet for making this dream come true.”
Interjet currently has 30 orders for the Superjet 100, but during the press conference noted that depending on how the initial order goes, they may indeed need to order additional aircraft. Interjet will commence SuperJet 100 service in early September, initially only on domestic routes, but international routes will follow after some time. The initial Mexican destinations for the SuperJet include Aguascalientes, Campeche, La Paz, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Minatitlan, Reynosa, Torreon and Zacatecas. The airline plans to have six SSJ100’s flying by years end. 2 SSJ 100s have been delivered thus far, with the first arriving just over three weeks ago, which are operating on proving flights.
As we saw at the Paris Air Show, the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 is quite an attractive aircraft, both inside and out. In fact, Interjet’s President even noted that the passenger experience on board this regional aircraft is a bit better than their Airbus A320 counterpart. The aircraft is designed to accommodate up to 100 passengers, though Interjet has opted for 93 seats in its single-class configuration. The well appointed Italian designed interior by Pininfarina, combined with 34 inch seat pitch, and in-flight entertainment do indeed make for a wonderful regional experience, when compared to other aircraft in the segment that offer a much smaller cabin.
It will be very exciting to see how the SSJ 100 does once Interjet pushes it into service. Very rarely does such a young airline have the opportunity to be one of the very first to take delivery of a new aircraft type. Will Interjet’s decision to go with the SuperJet over the competing regional jets from Embraer and Bombardier prove to be the correct one. Sukhoi clearly has alot riding the type’s success with Interjet if SuperJet is to secure future orders in the Americas.
We will have a full story on Interjet including an in-flight review next week.