Russian Superjet fleet risks grounding over lack of spark plugs: report

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Part of the fleet of Superjet 100 passenger aircraft reportedly risks grounding over a lack of US-made spark plugs for the Franco-Russian SaM-146 engines.

The information was reported by the Telegram channel Aviatorshchina, a Russian telegram channel that regularly publishes insider stories from the aviation industry.

“Over the past 11 months, spark plugs have been supplied by PJSC UEC- Saturn from its reserves, but at the moment, PJSC UAC-Saturn has difficulties in providing this service,” a notice shared by the channel reads. “The current situation leads to the risk of stopping part of the airlines’ RRJ95 [another name for the SSJ100 – ed. note] aircraft fleet in the near future and the gradual complete cessation of flights of the entire fleet of RRJ-95 aircraft, which jeopardizes the implementation of the flight program for the transportation of passengers, including socially significant ones.”

Saturn, a subsidiary of the Russian state company United Engine Corporation, is one of the two companies forming PowerJet, a joint venture in charge of producing and supporting the  SaM146, the sole engine powering the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner. The other company involved in the joint venture is the French engine manufacturer Safran.

Before sanctions were applied against Russian aviation in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, engine spark plugs for the SaM-146 engines were manufactured by the US-based company Unison Industries.

In late March 2022, PowerJet, the Russian-French manufacturer of the SaM146 engines, said it would suspend its engine maintenance and repair services. A month later, several Russian airlines operating the Sukhoi Superjet 100 warned that they might have to ground the aircraft soon.

Russia hopes to replace the SaM146 engine by its own indigenous design, the Aviadvigatel PD-8. In May 2022, Russian state conglomerate Rostec said it completed the static testing program of the domestic turbofan engine.

According to ch-aviation data, 140 SSJ100 are currently active, while 73 are either stored or under maintenance.

UPDATE 17-03-2023, 15:32 (UTC +3): Six SSJ100 operators, including IrAero, Azimut Airlines, and Yakutia, confirmed the existence of a spark plug shortage to the Russian portal RBC.

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