Impressing in Mexico a must for Sukhoi

(This first appeared as a Comment article in Flight International, 19 February 2013)

Sukhoi’s own technical snags with its Superjet might not have attracted the same degree of scrutiny as those affecting the Boeing 787.

But they are arguably more critical to a programme that symbolises one of the few remaining chips Russia is still able to play from its dwindling pile at the aerospace industry’s gambling table.

While its first aircraft for Mexican customer Interjet is nearing completion, Sukhoi is still dealing with gripes from Aeroflot.

The airframer rightly notes that every new aircraft type experiences operational problems for the first few months – witness the mighty 787′s grounding. But Sukhoi doesn’t have an 800-strong backlog as testimony to customer confidence, nor has it managed to push more than about a dozen aircraft out of its factory in the space of nearly two years.

Sukhoi can’t even take much solace from the home front, once a closed door to non-Soviet production. Even if the Embraer 190, newly certificated in Russia, remains a relatively expensive option, it plonks 90-seat competition firmly on Sukhoi’s porch.

All this makes the Interjet debut a high-stakes affair for Sukhoi, if the airframer ever hopes to find a niche in the increasingly cut-throat regional airliner market. It’s likely to find the international spotlights far brighter than the ones in Moscow.

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