• Tom Jordan

Red Wings to acquire up to 60 Sukhoi Superjets by 2024

In order to boost the dwindling order book of the Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 and Irkut MC-21 aircraft, and in light of the COVID-19 crisis which has only further reduced demand for new aircraft, the Russian Government has devised a plan for Red Wings to acquire up to 76 locally made aircraft from Russian aircraft manufacturing monopoly United Aircraft Corporation.

A Red Wings Airbus A321. Photo by Red Wings Airlines

However, Red Wings is no newcomer to operating locally made aircraft. The airline, founded in 1999, began operations with a fleet of eleven locally made Tupolev Tu-204-100B aircraft which were only recently replaced by Airbus A321-200 aircraft. In 2013, a massive milestone in the airline's history came when it was sold by previous owner, Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev, to Ilyushin Finance Corporation, a division of the United Aircraft Corporation which today manufactures all of Russia's locally made civilian airliners such as the Superjet 100, Il-96 and Irkut MC-21.

In spite of its ownership by the United Aircraft Corporation, Red Wings set out on an ambitious modernisation program in 2018, with a plan to replace its Russian built Tupolev's and Sukhoi Superjet 100s with more modern Airbus A320s and A321s. In 2019, the last of the Russian airliners, a Tupolev Tu-204-100B, was phased out and retired with the Airbus aircraft fully taking over operations.

But on the 18th of May 2020, Red Wings' parent company United Aircraft Corporation made a shock announcement, stating that the airline would be ordering a total of 76 locally made aircraft comprising of 60 Sukhoi Superjet 100s (SSJ-95-100), adding to its existing order of 16 Irkut MC-21-300 aircraft which was placed in 2013. According to the airline, these new aircraft are to be delivered over the next four years with the last aircraft expected to arrive in 2024. This aircraft order represents a significant expansion for the carrier which today only operates 12 aircraft, but also a welcome boost to the backlog of the Sukhoi Superjet 100.

According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, the decision to create the aircraft order for Red Wings was one that will "create an airline with a focus on operating Russian made aircraft," particularly in the light of the COVID-19 crisis which has decimated the airline industry, as well as demand for civil aircraft. Interestingly, in the same announcement, Borisov stated that "Red Wings will be the basis for a new role-model system for maintenance and repairs, to bring operations in-line with global standards and prove that Russian made aircraft are not in-fact second to Western-built aircraft."

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