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FARNBOROUGH: Orient Thai Airlines signs tentative order for 12 Superjets

Bangkok-based Orient Thai Airlines has signed a tentative order for 12 Sukhoi Superjets, with options for an additional 12.

However, the Russian airframer does not expect to ink any additional firm orders during the rest of the Farnborough air show, says Sukhoi's president Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk.

"But we will have some preliminary agreements with customers," he adds.

The Superjet's order backlog stands at 131 aircraft, following a firm order of 30 jets by Indonesia's Kartika Airlines on the first day of the show.

Sukhoi expects to add an additional 60 aircraft to its Superjet backlog by the end of the year and hopes to win its first customers in the North American and European markets by then, says Alessandro Franzoni, chief executive of Superjet International, which is responsible for marketing and sales of the aircraft.

Hungarian carrier Malev had signed a letter of intent to take up to 30 Superjets, but the deal is on hold as the airline faces heavy losses.

"We expect to sit down with them [Malev] in the fall to finalise their commitments," says Franzoni.

A North American leasing company has also approached Sukhoi to "express interest" in the Superjet but Franzoni says it is not certain if a firm contract can be inked by the end of the year.

First deliveries of the aircraft to launch customer Aeroflot is on track to happen by year-end, says Prisyazhnyuk.

This will be followed by deliveries to Armavia and Finance Leasing Company, he adds.

In 2012, deliveries will begin to Kartika Airlines, Avialeasing and Laos' Phongsavanh Airlines, which Sukhoi has signed a tentative agreement with.

Sukhoi expects to ramp up the production rate to 50 aircraft a year by 2014 and 70 a year eventually, says Prisyazhnyuk.