The regional jet business is in many ways a more difficult market to trade in. Whereas among the big jets you have a duopoly, in the regional jet business you see four competitors fighting. We have frequently referred to the regional space as the “small duopoly” – after all its primarily a fight between Bombardier and Embraer.
However news over the past 24 hours suggests the newcomers may be facing some issues.
First SuperJet – on Xmas day, an email came from Italy describing a Russian Airworthiness Directive. It reads:
Sukhoi Civil Aircraft comment on fulfillment of FATA (Russian Federation Federal Air Transport Agency) Airworthiness Directive (dated 23.12.2016)
As part of a routine inspection of an SSJ in Russia, a defect was detected in an element of the tail stabilizer in an area not critical to the aircraft operation. The element has a multi-level redundancy system and was design with a stability margin far exceeding its service loads.
The element was designed and tested in accordance with the Russian and European airworthiness requirements of IAC AR (Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register) Type Certificate and its validation by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).
SCAC together with operators is performing inspections of the SSJ100 fleet in operation; a Technical Decision on Continued Airworthiness of SSJ100 Aircraft was issued.
We have requested details of which part is the issue. When, and if, we get any feedback we will share this information. While the above note is reassuring, bear in mind it was sent from Italy on Xmas Day around 5PM EST. OEMs do not send out emails on Xmas Day unless its serious. With people now out until after New Year, we await a response.
Next comes news from Japan about the much delayed MRJ-90. On December 20 the third test vehicle arrived at Moses Lake. Once again MITAC used the long way around via Hawaii.
Back in October MITAC notified launch customer ANA it was expecting a delay in the MRJ-90 EIS. Today from Japan we see that ANA is getting more delay news. There is distinct lack of detail. However consider that with three of the four test vehicles at Moses Lake, any significant modification to the aircraft is going to be complicated. If MITAC has to redo the structure, as it did before, then the fixes will likely be done on the aircraft in Japan at Kobe. But anything else will have to be done at Moses Lake. Does MITAC have the technical resources at Moses Lake? We don’t know. But those watching the movements at Moses Lake will get a hint of what’s coming by monitoring the site.
While the SuperJet has been flying satisfactorily in Russia, Europe and North America, the Russian decision to ground the fleet is radical. The MITAC news comes at an awkward time – the program was just getting flight tests to accelerate from Moses Lake.
So, it looks like we are going back to seeing the regional jet business as a a small duopoly again – at least for a while. Bombardier and Embraer will not be unhappy.