Economy, Business And Markets

Russian Jet Purchase Back in the Cards

Domestic Economy Desk
The 108-seat SSJ-100 is the first jetliner Russia has developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.The 108-seat SSJ-100 is the first jetliner Russia has developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Despite rejections in the past, Iranian officials now confirm the domestic airlines’ intentions to buy Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger planes, about which the Iranian public is pessimistic amid poor safety record of Russian planes in the past few years.

“The manufacturer of Sukhoi Superjet 100 on Tuesday will introduce its product to Iranian airline companies. And after performing a demonstration flight, airlines plan to have negotiations regarding the purchase of the aircraft,” Maqsoud As’adi Samani, the head of the Association of Iranian Airlines, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

“Buying the Sukhoi Superjet 100 planes is among the options for Iranian airlines. They will make a decision after considering the aircraft’s conditions and merits following the demo flight,” he added.

Early October, Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran Civil Aviation Organization, rejected plans to purchase the plane, saying CAO has not received any request from Iranian airlines for purchasing the aircraft.

Many Iranian experts question the safety of the Russian-made middle-range plane, saying there are far better options for Iran, which is planning to rejuvenate its aging air fleet after years of sanctions imposed by the West over the country’s nuclear energy program.

As part of a landmark nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers, sanctions were removed in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

The poor performance of Russian planes such as Tupolev has made Iranian airlines lose faith in Russian aircraft. The plane has crashed four times in Iran since 1993, leading to 445 fatalities.

Add to this two crashes of Antonov planes, as well as two others with Ilyushin aircraft both made in Russia.

“Iranians have a negative image about Tupolev, but SSJ-100s are substantially different,” Samani said, adding that “some European countries such as France and Italy” have also participated in manufacturing that plane.

European planes, among other products made in Europe, have fared better in terms of reputation among Iranians. The first plane deal Iran signed after the lifting of sanctions in January was with the French giant Airbus for more than 100 jetliners, which was followed by a similar deal with Airbus’ US-based rival Boeing.

Those deals, which are yet to be finalized, received permission from US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, but the election of JCPOA-opponent Donald Trump as the president of the United States in November has raised the specter of the cancellation of these agreements.

Iran has also clinched a deal with French-Italian manufacturer of short-haul planes ATR to meet its pent-up demand for regional jets. To that end, Iranian officials have also been in talks with Brazil’s Embraer and Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation.

“The majority of Iranian airlines can purchase this aircraft [Sukhoi Superjet 100], as it is a suitable option for all the airlines in terms of capacity,” Samani said.

Experts believe the 108-seat SSJ-100, which is the first jetliner Russia has developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a copy of an Airbus model.

In 2012, the plane crashed on a demonstration flight operating from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Nonetheless, when it comes to prices, Russian planes have a competitive edge. SSJ-100 is more than 50% cheaper compared to the 107-seat Airbus A318 and 30% less than the 98-seat Embraer 190.

Officials are also tempted by Sukhoi’s manufacturing partnership offers.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in November 2015 that the plane can be partly localized by Iranian producers.

“If Tehran agrees to purchase SSJ-100, we will discuss the partial localization of production in Iran,” he said.

Russian news agency Sputnik quoted Iran’s Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh as saying on the sidelines of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June that Iran was interested in the joint production of the plane.

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