Sukhoi prepares for first flight of serial-production Superjet 100

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Sukhoi's civil aircraft division is preparing for the first flight of the serial-production Superjet 100 this summer, as it starts winding down its flight-test programme.

The first of the four flying prototype twinjets has completed its work, after 280 flights, and the airframer aims to finish the test phase with three aircraft, plus the static and fatigue airframes.

"We do not plan to allocate one more aircraft for [flight] testing," says Sukhoi.

The manufacturer has been battling a bottleneck for the PowerJet SaM146 engine, and admitted earlier this year that it was being forced to share engines between the prototypes and initial production aircraft.

PowerJet, which developed eight flight-test engines for the programme, is expecting to start sending production engines to Sukhoi this month.

Together the prototype jets had accumulated 1,800 flight hours in 705 flights by 2 July. Completed operational tests have included wet-runway runs and cold-soak, while the SaM146 has obtained European certification.

The static testing is largely complete, says the company, with items such as the strength of passenger cabin installations still outstanding. Tests on the nose landing-gear have ended successfully, while that for the main landing-gear is nearing conclusion.

Range verification has been conducted by operating the aircraft on routes from Moscow to St Petersburg, Murmansk and Kazan, while aircraft 95005 has undertaken restricted-visibility certification flights.

Fuel system tests have been "successfully completed", says the airframer, while the avionics capability - including Category I and II landings - is still being assessed.

"Oxygen and fire-protection systems testing is on the way, as well as autopilot, navigation system and autothrottle," it adds.

First flight of the serial-production aircraft is "expected in summer", says Sukhoi, while Russian certification is to be achieved by the end of the year, with deliveries "to start right after, simultaneously to Aeroflot and Armavia".

Aeroflot and Armavia account for 32 Superjet orders between them. Sukhoi is coy on the status of the remaining orders, particularly the question as to whether Italian flag carrier Alitalia is intending to acquire the type.

Sukhoi had allocated 20 aircraft to Alitalia, says the airframer's annual report issued at the end of June, of a total of 123 firm orders, made by eight customers. But the manufacturer subsequently claimed that this was an "erroneous" disclosure, and stuck with a figure of 101 firm orders.