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.
— SuperJet Intl. (@SuperJetIntl) December 27, 2016
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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