Citing safety reasons, Armenia’s national airline, Armavia, said on Monday that it has decided not to add Russian-made Sukhoi SuperJet 100 aircraft to its fleet despite an existing supply contract with their state-owned manufacturer.
Armavia was due to buy two such passenger jets in accordance with the agreement with the Russian aviation group Sukhoi signed in Yerevan in 2007. Its top executives strongly defended the $100 million deal at the time, downplaying the fact that the newly developed SuperJets had not yet been tested in the air.
Armavia’s owner, Mikhail Bagdasarov, is a Russian-Armenian businessman close to Armenia’s government. Sukhoi is managed by another Russian citizen of Armenian descent, Mikhail Pogosian. The Russian company was until then better known for its military aircraft widely used by the air forces of Russia and many other states, including Armenia.
Armavia started using the first SuperJet 100 in April 2011. Earlier this year, the jet was grounded due to technical reasons before being sent to Russia for urgent repairs.
An Armavia spokesperson told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the company will not exploit it anymore. She said the fact that the SuperJet required repairs after only one year of service testifies to its inadequate quality and technical characteristics.
Dmitry Atbashian, a former longtime chief of Armenia’s civil aviation authority, approved of the move. “This aircraft does not correspond to the parameters cited in its advertisements,” Atbashian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “As far as I know, its engines are not good enough and its operational costs are higher than expected.”
Armavia already announced last month that it will not take delivery of the second Russian plane. It gave no reason for that decision.
The decision was announced two months after another SuperJet crashed during a promotional flight in Indonesia, killing all 45 people on board. The plane disappeared from radar screens after the crew asked air-traffic control for permission to change course.
Sukhoi developed the SupeJet jointly with an Italian company in 2000-2004 as part of Russia’s efforts to revive its aerospace industry hit hard by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nearly 100-seat jet’s first commercial was carried out by Armavia from Yerevan to Moscow in April 2011.