Superjet 100 Exonerated, Image Still Under Repair
Indonesian aviation authorities have found that human factors and a series of small technical problems involving air traffic control led to the crash of Sukhoi Superjet 100 S/N 95004 on May 9 near Jakarta, killing 45 people. Investigators concluded that the cockpit crew of the ill-fated demonstration flight, unaware of the mountainous area surrounding their flight path, disregarded an alert from the airplane’s terrain awareness and warning system (Taws). The report also notes that the Jakarta radar service had not established the minimum vectoring altitudes and lacked a functioning minimum safe altitude warning for the particular area surrounding the crash site on Mount Salak. Finally, says the report, prolonged conversation not related to the progress of the flight distracted the flight crew and resulted in the pilot’s inadvertently exiting a right orbit he had requested and for which he had received ATC approval.
During a special briefing in Moscow Tuesday, Russian deputy minister for industry and trade Yuri Slyusar conceded that, despite the report’s failure to mention any technical fault with the airplane, the accident had already damaged the Superjet’s reputation. “This catastrophe delivered a strong blow to the commercial prospects for the Superjet project,” he said. However, he said he thinks that Indonesian type certification and plans by local airline PT SkyAviation to take delivery of its first airplane by the end of this year have repaired the Superjet’s image to a degree.
Sukhoi claims the Superjet 100 holds an 8-percent efficiency advantage over the Embraer E190, but few examples of the Sukhoi have yet to enter service. Not until December 18 did Sukhoi deliver another SSJ100–to Russia’s Yakutia Airlines–since sending Aeroflot its tenth in September. Under a newly adjusted plan, Sukhoi plans to assemble 25 airplanes next year, 42 in 2014 and 50 in 2015.
As of December 16, Aeroflot’s Superjet fleet averaged between 1.9 and 3.9 hours’ utilization a day and had amassed nearly 15,400 hours during 8,138 flights. While giving a generally positive assessment of the airplane’s handling qualities, Aeroflot has complained of high noise during extension and retraction of the wing high-lift devices, false fuel readings and spotty reliability of the air conditioning system. Software, after repeated updates, continues to cause problems, as has the flight management system (FMS) in certain modes. A more serious flaw involves the Taws, which works correctly only when both pilots have selected the same map scale on their navigation displays. Should a crewmember select a different map scale, a “TAWS FAIL” warning message appears and “TERRAIN” vanishes from both screens. Finally, the system does not supply information on terrain at flight altitudes above 2,000 feet agl.