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ALTA: Superjet steps up battle with Embraer in Latin America

The international marketing arm for Russia's Sukhoi Superjet expects sales to Latin American carriers will account for 10% of the total market for the 100 seater over the next 20 years.

Superjet International's (SJI) chief executive Carlo Logli is confident will secure more Latin American business over the six months to add to existing local customer, Mexico's Interjet, as it goes head to head with the region's incumbent small jet supplier Embraer.

"We want to star in the kingdom of our main competitor Embraer - it is the benchmark," said Logli. "We have been discussing for a while with a few companies in the region, and we may have another customer in the next six months.

"My challenge is that Embraer is well known and has very good market share, and I am a newcomer with few customers and a few aircraft flying."

He added that he prefers to "remain vague" about the specifics of potential new Latin American customers because "my competitor is very, very aggressive, sometimes it is even in bad faith".

Venice, Italy, -based SJI is joint venture between Alenia Aeronautica and Sukhoi, with the Italian partner holding the majority stake (51%). It is responsible for selling the Superjet 100 to Western markets and undertakes delivery, customisation training and support functions for these international customers. It is also tasked with developing VIP and cargo versions of the aircraft.

The Superjet entered service earlier this year with Armenian carrier Armavia and Aeroflot. Four aircraft are in operation and two more are due to be handed over before year end. Superjet production will ramp up in 2012 when 28 aircraft are due to be delivered, including the first of 15 to Interjet.

The Mexican airline is due to be the first SJI customer to introduce the twinjet at the end of the summer of 2012. It will be the first to receive the Superjet 100LR long-range variant which it will configure in a single-class layout with 93 seats at 34in pitch.

Logli says that that SJI forecasts a market for 1,000 Superjets over the next 20 years, and expects Latin American carriers to take 100 of these. The Superjet's main competitor is the similarly sized E-190 variant of the Embraer E-Jet family, which is of course produced locally in Brazil. Logli says that the Russian jet has an 8% trip cost advantage over its rival thanks to its superior aerodynamics and more advanced engines - the PowerJet SaM146.

"Our aircraft has a smaller, lighter wing than the Embraer. The Superjet's wing area is 10m2 less than the E-190 but offers the same lift thanks to its very advanced aerodynamic configuration." SJI quotes a catalogue price for the Superjet of $31 million, which significantly undercuts that of the E-190 which is understood to be in excess of $40 million.

Interjet is the Superjet's only airline customer in the Americas signed so far. As SJI looks to bolster its penetration in North, Central and South America it is finalising plans for a support network in the region. "We have support centres in Venice and Moscow and spares warehouses in Frankfurt and Moscow. With the arrival of Interjet next year we'll open a spare-parts centre the USA, probably in Fort Lauderdale," said Logli. "We also intend for Interjet to offer MRO services throughout the region."

Although a Superjet development aircraft completed a one-month hot and high flight-test campaign at Toluca, Mexico, earlier this year, the twinjet has not yet been formally demonstrated in the region. "So far we've been concentrating on delivering the Superjet. We envisage that proper demonstration flights will start next year," said Logli.

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