Superjet International this week kicked off a three-contender regional jet contest at Rome Fiumicino airport for Alitalia, which is expected to choose within weeks between the Sukhoi Superjet 100, Bombardier CRJ900/1000 and Embraer 190.

Superjet's aircraft, technical support and training presentation included a 1h flight test with two Alitalia pilots on board as observers. Along with Alitalia's evaluation team, Vito Riggio, president of Italian civil aviation authority ENAC, was on hand for the presentation.

Sources in Italy suggest that the Superjet is expected to outperform its rivals on short- to medium-length high-traffic, high-value routes such as between Milan Linate and Rome, while offering Airbus A320 comfort levels.

Sukhoi Superjet Water ingestion trials
 © Sukhoi

The Italian airline is looking to replace its fleet of 10 Bombardier CRJ900s and six Embraer 170s and is receiving bids from the Canadian and Brazilian airframers.

Superjet's offer for 20 aircraft and an undisclosed number of options is based on an operating lease package, already agreed with an international leasing company.

At the Farnborough air show in July, newly formed Bermuda-based lessor Pearl Aircraft signed a tentative agreement to acquire 30 Superjets, with options on another 15, and described Alitalia as "maybe" a target client.

In September, US-based engine lessor Willis Lease Finance in September agreed firm contracts for six Superjets with four options, noting that the aircraft appears to be capable of offering 10% better operating efficiency over competing models.

According to ENAC, the four aircraft involved in the Superjet 100 certification programme have logged around 840 sorties and more than 2,070 flying hours, with Russian certification expected by the end of November.

Source: Flight International