United Aircraft Corporation, Vnukovo Business Aviation Center and Azimut Airlines are considering the project of organizing charter corporate transportation on the basis of SSJ100 aircraft in VIP version – Sukhoi Business Jet (SBJ). Design agency Asgard was hired for the branding works.
In the early 2020’s the Russian aviation industry had a clear need for an airline, performing charter operations in the premium sector. The initiator of the project was the United Aircraft Corporation. Several Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional planes with business class saloons were allocated for the project. The airline focused on corporate clients and sports clubs – in 2016 UAC announced plans to offer professional sports teams a specialized SportJet aircraft.
But even earlier, in September 2014, during the JetExpo exhibition in Moscow, the first SSJ100 aircraft in VIP version was presented. Rosoboronexport was the customer of the SuperJet with flight number RA-89053 (serial number 95009), and now this airliner is operated by RusJet Airlines.
Other customers of the SBJ were Kazakhstani company Kazakhmys PLC Corporation, the supplier of the aircraft and the manufacturer of the cabin was Comlux Completion (Indianapolis, USA). As well as the Royal Thai Air Force, which operates three SBJs for air transportation of top officials and members of the royal family.
Over the years SSJ100 business version has seen some major changes, most notably the significant increase of the flight range up to 7200km with additional fuel tanks and the installation of a built-in stairs.
On February 27, it became known that the Federal Grid Company has bought a new 16-seat Superjet 100 with an increased flight range from PJSC Irkut. Kommersant media notes in this regard that big business and private buyers have been showing interest in the Sukhoi Business Jet since the beginning of the sanctions, but there are no free planes, as 2022 was the end of the production of this aircraft in Russia due to the termination of international cooperation by Western countries, which supplied aircraft systems and equipment to Russia, including components for the production in Rybinsk engines SaM146.
In February 2023 there were two milestone events which could fundamentally change the situation with the production of SSJ100 aircraft in basic configuration, i.e. with imported components.
On February 14 UAC CEO Yury Slyusar said on the sidelines of Aero India 2023 international aerospace exhibition in Bangalore that the United Aircraft Corporation is considering the possibility of localization and production of the Superjet 100 aircraft in India. He mentioned as one of the topical issues the possibility to start the production of Russian regional jets in the basic version with the European certificate at the HAL facilities. The results and the fact of the negotiations were not reported due to the sensitivity of the topic and the natural reluctance of UAC to make it public.
But on February 27 news came from the United Arab Emirates that the investment company Markab Capital, headquartered in Dubai, signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Italian company SuperJet International to establish a plant for production of civilian aircraft in the United Arab Emirates. Gulf News, which reported the signing, did not specify the type of aircraft to be built in the UAE, but several reliable sources in the Russian aviation industry told the Aviation of Russia website that the aircraft is the Superjet 100.
We asked Oleg Evdokimov, president of ATEO Air and aviation economics expert, to comment on the news from Dubai.
“Now, when after the news from India and the UAE it became known about the imminent large-scale production of Superjets for export markets, it is high time to engage in full-fledged marketing ahead of time. A striking event would be the beginning of SBJ Aurus use at the presidential level. And the first candidate here is the Maldives, an island country with a mass of small airports that has expressed interest in Russian planes,” he said.
Oleg Evdokimov believes that the terms of delivery should be as comfortable as possible for a small country friendly to Russia. “ACMI* should be done with a focus on promotion, not on extracting maximum profit from the delivery,” said the expert.
He explained that now it is important to focus on the production of long-range Superjets with additional fuel tanks. “And it should be done today, not the day after tomorrow, as it is customary for us,” Oleg Evdokimov summarized.
ACMI leasing, also known as “wet” leasing, is an agreement between two airlines in which the lessor agrees to provide the lessee with the aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance in exchange for payment for the number of operating hours.