Skylink Airways aims to fill a vacuum left by South African Airways (SAA) and become the first Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) operator in Africa.

The company was established by entrepreneur Clarence Andrea Steyn, who laid out the plan in an interview with Aero Telegraph. 

According to the founder, the airline already found potential investors from both Russia and South Africa and started hiring ex-SAA personnel. 

South African Airways (SAA) has been in deep financial trouble for years, and despite recent talks of restructuring and new investments, the company has stopped operations in 2020 and laid off a significant part of its workers.

Steyn said Skylink Airways (not to be confused with Canadian SkyLink Aviation and SkyLink Express) should fill the gaps left by the SAA and have bases in Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

The company also aims to cooperate closely with Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi. Special headquarters in Moscow are going to be established for this reason and plans for long-haul flights between South Africa and Russia are on the table.

For the nearest future, Skylink aims to start operations in September 2022 and fly mostly to South African destinations, as well as several neighboring countries.

It will operate two Embraer E190s and ten SSJ100 regional airliners. Of the latter aircraft, five planes are going to be purchased and five leased. 

Unwanted by foreign airlines

Superjet 100, also known as SSJ100, is a regional aircraft manufactured by Sukhoi, a subsidiary of Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Introduced in 2011 and marketed heavily towards the international market, it became known for its many controversies. 

All western airlines that operated it had reported troubles with the supply of spare parts, leading to CityJet and Brussels Airlines – the only western European carriers to operate the jet – dropping it from their lineup. Mexican Interjet, the remaining operator, had also experienced significant problems with maintenance of the Russian aircraft, before shutting down in late 2020 due to financial troubles. 

Since then, the SSJ100 has only been employed by Russian airlines and various governmental bodies, such as Royal Thai Air Force and Kazakh government. 

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The Superjet-100, initially manufactured by Sukhoi, was designed to compete with Brazilian Embraer and Canadian Bombardier in the regional aircraft market. To encourage acquisitions, subsidies were offered by the Russian government. Eight years after it entered service, it has been at the center of numerous controversies.
 
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There were many problems with the new Russian regional airliner program right from the beginning. One of them – at least according to some – was the fact that the aircraft itself was not really that Russian. United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is slowly trying to change that, but the task is not as easy as it appeared at first.