Superjet pushes back first delivery for Western launch customer

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Sukhoi has pushed back delivery of the first Superjet 100 to Western launch customer ItAli Airlines by at least one year due to delays in the new regional jet's flight test and certification programme.

Industry sources say Sukhoi has decided to focus initially on delivering aircraft to launch customer Aeroflot and deliveries to Western customers will likely not begin until 2011.

A Superjet International spokesman confirms deliveries to Western customers have been pushed back but says the first delivery for ItAli Airlines is now scheduled for mid 2010. Venice-based Superjet International, a joint venture between Sukhoi and Alenia, is responsible for completing, delivering and supporting all Superjets acquired by Western customers.

ItAli Airlines signed up in June 2007 as the Western launch customer for the Superjet, placing an order for 10 Superjet 100s plus 10 options. Deliveries were initially scheduled to begin in late 2009.

Aeroflot was originally slated to receive the first of at least 30 Superjet 100s late this year. But Sukhoi announced last month that Aeroflot would not receive its first aircraft until the second half of next year due to delays in the flight test and certification programme.

The Superjet 100 flew for the first time in mid May, about six months behind the initial schedule. As of last week, the aircraft had only completed 18 flights.

The Superjet International spokesman says there was "some minor engine problems" with the flight test aircraft but those have since been resolved. He says Sukhoi is not behind in the certification programme and while only 18 flights have been completed, a total of 53 hours have been logged.

"We've had a good number of pretty long flights," the spokesman says.

The programme is now on pace to secure Russian certification next summer, allowing for the first aircraft to be delivered to Aeroflot in the third quarter of 2009.

The spokesman says EASA certification is now scheduled for May 2010, allowing for first delivery to ItAli Airlines at around the midpoint of 2010.

ItAli Airlines is one of three Western companies to so far commit to acquiring the Superjet. In July, Sukhoi announced it had also secured an order for 20 firm aircraft from an undisclosed Western client for delivery from 2010 and for five aircraft from Switzerland's AMA Asset Management Advisors for delivery from 2011.