Just how bad is the SSJ100 tail problem?

A CityJet Sukhoi SSJ100 sits on the static display at this year's Farnborough International Air Show
A CityJet Sukhoi SSJ100 sits on the static display at this year's Farnborough International Air Show

The excessive metal fatigue issue affecting the Sukhoi SuperJet SSJ100 appears to be more significant than initially announced. Or maybe not. Getting a clear picture of how many planes are affected and what the true impact will be is proving a challenge.

For its part, the company is keeping a positive tone. It proudly announced that the fleet inspection was quickly completed and that the problem is “not of a systemic nature.”

Following the results of the inspection, the defect is not of a systemic nature and can be eliminated within a few days. Examination has confirmed that the issue is not a critical situation: the node features a multi-level redundant structure and has a safety margin which is more than twice the operational loads.

SCA has also developed a plan for prompt actions to restore airworthiness and has already commenced its implementation. The replacement of nodes on the aircraft with the defect identified will be completed by late January.

Work will be performed by SCA technical specialists and will also complete a package of works associated with the upgrade of the node in order to avoid the same defect occurs again.

But that does not address just how many planes are impacted by the issue. A problem that can be eliminated “within a few days” would, in theory, be addressed that quickly. That it will take a month to complete the repairs is far different from a few days. And while the repairs are pending the affected planes will be out of service.

Mexican carrier Interjet operates 22 SSJ100s and has found that half its fleet is affected by the issue. The carrier grounded the 11 aircraft and is bringing in an additional A321 to help mitigate the impact, though one plane – even at double the capacity – will not make up for eleven out of service. Aeroflot owns the largest SSJ100 fleet with 29 frames registered to the company. It appears that fewer than a third of those have flown since the incident was first reported, though 10 of the aircraft may not have operated for longer than that, at least not where public flight tracking services have recorded operations. Either way, that fleet appears to be impaired as well. CityJet’s SSJs are still flying, suggesting that they are not impacted by the issue.

Yes, the problem will be fixed and the aircraft will return to flight. And this is nowhere close to the same impact as the grounding of the 787s with the battery fire issues. But it is still significant, especially for Interjet. And, of course, for the future of the SSJ in terms of finding new customers for the type.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. I do not think they’re an inherently bad plane to fly and I’m still annoyed I didn’t get the chance earlier this year when I flew Interjet. The bigger challenge comes from the mixed messages about what’s happened and what the solution will be and when it will be completed.

    2. The structural history of the 737 gives more cause for alarm, in my opinion. The Russians build their planes like tanks, by comparison. I think this will blow over.

  1. The western airlines just don’t trust Russian designs if they did then Superjet would have sold hundreds of jets. But of course they are just competing with Airbus and Boeing who will do anything to protect there market share. They will not sell anymore jets to the west and only the Russians and Chinese will buy them that is they don’t Air bus instead which wouldn’t surprise me

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