Russia keen to show it can take on Boeing, Airbus


A visit to the Paris Air Show by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, more exhibition space than ever and demonstrations of its Sukhoi airliner — Russia is getting serious about challenging the dominance of Boeing Co and Airbus .

With exhibition space at 1,700 square metres, the Russian Federation is one of the 10 largest national participants at this year’s Paris air show, highlighting its desire to make a mark.

State-owned United Aircraft Corp, which owns Sukhoi, believes it can become a serious third player in the commercial market by 2025, pinning its hopes on its mid-sized MS-21/MC-21 airliner.
“We are here to convince our customers, our potential customers, that we are capable of all these targets that we put in front of us,” UAC Chairman Mikhail Pogosyan said at the Paris Air Show.

His colleague Alexey Fedorov, president of Sukhoi unit Irkut, said: “Any new planes from Airbus and Boeing won’t come until around 2020, so we feel the MC-21 will enable us to take a good share of the market and compete well with them”.

Sukhoi also announced the launch of a business jet version of the regional SuperJet 100.

Moscow is pushing for Russian companies to raise their spending in research and development as the government seeks to modernise and diversify the economy away from energy and other resources.

State-owned Russian Technologies said it would use the Paris Air Show to improve its contacts with foreign partners as it seeks to move from assembly to developing its own platforms.
“We are pursuing this in a serious direction. In the next two to three years, our priority in cooperation with foreign partners will be implementing our own technology,” Russian Technologies deputy general director Dmitry Shugayev said.

However, whether Russia can translate its ambitions into hard orders is another matter, given competition from Brazil’s Embraer , Canada’s Bombardier (BBDb.TO) and fellow new market entrant China.

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) is not short of ambition and on Tuesday signed an agreement with Ryanair, a traditional Boeing customer, to consult on the development of a new narrow-bodied aircraft.
“Given the size and the scale of the Chinese, you ignore them at your peril,” Ryanair’s finance director said last month when revealing it was in talks with both COMAC and UAC over future plane orders.

COMAC was striking a modest tone when asked about competing with the big two. “First, we have to learn from Boeing and Airbus, because they are the leaders and we are very small,” Wu Guanghui, chief designer and deputy general manager said.

Besides the threat of other ambitious competitors, the Russian aerospace sector also has to challenge a poor safety record underscored by a passenger jet from the Soviet era crashing in fog yesterday, killing 44 people.

SuperJet said it was key for Russian planemakers to use facts and statistics on the performance of new aircraft to convince European and U.S. customers to buy their planes.
“Given the long lead times and cycles in the industry, Russia has put together the right ingredients to make their presence felt in traditional Airbus-Boeing territory,” said Saj Ahmad of aviation consultancy FBE Aerospace. “But it remains to be seen whether airlines can be convinced.”