Sukhoi Civil Aircraft hopes to begin deliveries to Superjet 100 launch customer Aeroflot early next year, as it finally prepares to begin the flight-test campaign.

Speaking to Flight International at the Regional Airline Association convention in Indianapolis, Superjet International senior vice-president commercial Paolo Revelli Beaumont said the first flight should take place on 20 May "plus or minus a few days". This is at least six months later than originally planned.

The first flight of the 98-seater will initiate a test campaign of around eight-months before the first delivery to Aeroflot in the first quarter of 2009. Deliveries had previously been due to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Sukhoi plans to use four aircraft in the flight-test programme, and build 20-25 aircraft during the first year of production.

While the overseas sales effort is now more focused on potential European customers, Beaumont says that a US customer could come "in the second wave", and talks have been held with Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines.

A decision on the seat configuration for the proposed stretched 115- to 120-seat SSJ is expected this year, says Beaumont, who adds that the company is also seeking approval this year to offer an executive version of the Superjet.

General Electric will deliver CF34-10A engines for the second AVIC I Commercial Aircraft ARJ21 test aircraft this month, with powerplants for the third aircraft following in June. The maiden flight of the ARJ21 is due to in September, with service entry in 2009.

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Source: Flight International