Mexican carrier Interjet's withdrawal of four Sukhoi Superjet 100s for maintenance is not an abnormal situation, the marketing specialist for the Russian-built type insists.

SuperJet International is playing down the interchange of spare parts on the affected aircraft and claims fleet capacity will be restored to meet demand over the next few weeks.

Newly-appointed SJI senior vice-president, commercial, Stewart Cordner tells FlightGlobal that he believes the situation at Interjet has been exaggerated and that, while several aircraft in the fleet are undergoing work, the intensive maintenance amounts to a "non-issue".

Interjet has 22 Superjets but is still repairing an aircraft badly damaged in an airbridge collision more than two years ago, in October 2015.

"Nose replacement is not your everyday job," Cordner says.

Another aircraft is awaiting a refit of PowerJet SaM146 engines, he says, while two others are being serviced as part of a routine rotating maintenance cycle. One aircraft is set to return to the fleet around 19 January and Interjet aims for others to be restored to operation by the end of March.

"There's some spares robbing going on but it's all controlled," says Cordner, stressing that aircraft are not being scrapped. "Temporary robbing of parts isn't cannibalism."

Interjet acts as its own Latin American maintenance centre for the Superjet 100 in preference to using third parties, and SJI intends to use the carrier as a technical centre of competence to support other operators of the twinjet.

Cordner acknowledges that there is "room for improvement" regarding the supply of spares for the type, pointing out that Sukhoi does not have the "firepower" of Bombardier or Embraer which would ease a plentiful supply of immediately-available parts.

He says there is a need for SJI to balance the supply, identifying the parts which are more often required, adding: "It's more of a swapping and optimising rather than the amount of spares."

Cordner says SJI has "a lot of visibility" on parts requests and, while the Superjet 100 is a Russian-built jet, the spares demand covers a range of suppliers, many of which are Western.

"It's a mountain made out of a relatively small molehill," says Cordner, referring to the Interjet maintenance situation. "We're fine with it, the airline's fine with it."

Engine supplier PowerJet says its SaM146 powerplant has faced "a few teething issues", like all new technological developments, but that solutions have been identified and developed.

"Some temporary additional technical support might be temporarily needed to continue to improve the engine quality as part of our continuous efforts to ensure customer satisfaction," says the Franco-Russian joint venture.

Interjet is a "fleet leader" for the engine, it says, and has a support agreement in place to ensure SaM146 availability. Under this agreement Interjet has access to such services as engine lease, predictive maintenance and on-wing support, and PowerJet says it is providing all requested assistance.

"Some aircraft can remain on ground for a very short period of time, which is not reflecting a structural situation but a maintenance optimisation to maximise the fleet availability and cost structure," adds PowerJet.

It says it has increased the number of spare engines allocated to support Interjet and has also raised maintenance capacity in France and Russia.

Source: Cirium Dashboard