Sukhoi plans to deliver the first Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) in early 2007, as it targets a mid-year programme launch for the 75-seater it is developing in collaboration with Russian partner Ilyushin and Boeing.

Teams from Ilyushin and Sukhoi held an RRJ working group meeting with Boeing in Seattle earlier this month, and the project's technical council has also been formed. According to Boeing's Moscow office, the US manufacturer aims to decide formally whether to become a partner on the RRJ programme by July.

Andrei Ilyin, general director of Sukhoi's civil aircraft division, says agreement on major technical issues is planned at the next working group meeting in mid-June, with a view to deciding on the programme launch. Selection of major subcontractors and the manufacturing plant is planned for July, he says, adding that "deliveries of production aircraft will start in the first quarter of 2007 at the latest".

The baseline RRJ will be a 75-seat design with a five abreast cabin, similar to the Fairchild Dornier 728, with a range of 2,680km (1,450nm). A long-range variant capable of flying 5,000-6,000km is being studied to meet the requirements of an unnamed Russian airline.

Sukhoi is discussing the RRJ with 12 Russian and three CIS airlines, while Boeing "is talking to its major customers in the USA", says Ilyin. The Russian market is estimated at being "at least 150 units", and a further 500 international sales are also targeted.

Development is expected to cost around $600 million, says Ilyin, with a similar amount for the powerplant. Airframe and engine production will be undertaken in Russia to keep costs down and avoid heavy import taxes.

Four engines are in the running - the General Electric CF34-8E, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800, Rolls-Royce BR710 and Snecma/NPO Saturn SM146. Ukraine's ZMKB Progress may offer the AI-22 or D-36/436.

Preference will be given to a bidder willing to participate in the RRJ programme as a risk-sharing partner.

Source: Flight International