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Thrusting forward

Engine OEMs are challenged to improve dispatch reliability and reduce maintenance costs for airlines. Keith Mwanalushi looks at how PowerJet and CFM International’s new engines are measuring up

In 2004, Safran Aircraft Engines and NPO Saturn of Russia teamed up to form PowerJet – the company that went on to develop the SaM146 engine that powers the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100), for which it is the exclusive powerplant. 


Since entry into service in 2011 with the SSJ100, Marc Sorel, PowerJet’s Chief Executive Officer, tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business that engine-wise, things are going pretty well. “Six years after the engine entered service, the SaM146 dispatch reliability (99.9%) is on a par with the best-selling CFM56, the benchmark in the single-aisle commercial jet market.”


Since 2011, there have been more than 250 SaM146 engines in operation, and operators of the SSJ100 include airlines such as Aeroflot, Mexican low cost carrier Interjet and Irish regional airline CityJet. The accumulated operating time since the service entry of the SSJ100 has reached more than 650,000 hours and approximately 430,000 cycles.


As is common with new technologies and systems, problems inevitably crop up, as Sorel admits: “Like some new engines, the SaM146 has encountered some teething issues, which provide an opportunity to improve certain parts of the engine, and to gradually extend service life criteria to reflect the design intent, as part of a completely normal process of maturation.” 


The SaM146 thrust levels are in the 15,400-17,800lb range, designed to meet the specific demands of regional jets in the 100-seat class.


Two versions are now available: the 1S17, which powers the basic version of the SSJ100, and the 1S18, for the Long Range and Business Jet versions.


There has been much media speculation that PowerJet is looking at developing a higher thrust engine for a larger capacity 130-seat SSJ100 model. Sorel reports that there is scope for considering a midlife upgrade of the SaM146 in consultation with the aircraft manufacturer and on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the market. “We have regular discussions with Sukhoi about how the engine could potentially evolve in response to market demand and their plans to modify the aircraft.”


An issue often highlighted is the anticipated difficulty for airlines to access global aftermarket support solutions for newly developed engines and aircraft. In response, PowerJet has developed MRO capacities in workshops and on-site to meet operator needs.


“We have two Part-145 certified workshops, one in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines near Paris in France, and the other in Rybinsk in Russia.”


Sorel notes that these two workshops allow the company to meet the maintenance and repair needs of its customers. “For certain complex parts or modules, for example, we have been able to introduce preventive reinforcements and develop repair solutions, which are now deployed and introduced into our original equipment as well as in MRO operations. In order to reduce the TAT [Turn Around Time] of our customers and allow them to optimise their operations, we also offer, within the scope of our service package, support teams for on-wing maintenance, predictive maintenance, quick turns in the workshop and spare engines,” Sorel explains.


He says 2017 is a ramp-up year in terms of deliveries, with the objective to deliver more than 70 SaM146 engines to the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company – a record pace for PowerJet. “We have already delivered 30 to date and we expect the same volume of deliveries in 2018.” >>

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