Chris Long profiles the Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100.
A characteristic of most new aircraft in the 21st century is that they are the result of collaborative ventures. The Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100 is no exception, but it is unique in that it is a fusion of two primary organisations with completely different historic backgrounds.
The record of innovation in aircraft of Russian origin is second to none, and in particular the obvious mastery of aerodynamics and thrust vectoring of Sukhoi fighter aircraft has wowed observers at air shows worldwide over many years. The strengths in the manufacture of advanced aerodynamic models is obvious. The Italian company, Alenia Aermacchi (a Finmeccanica company) has long featured on the world stage, and has considerable experience of both military and civil aircraft sales and support.
The logic of combining the talents of these two companies is sound, and the theme of cooperation continues with the use of a new-build engine. This engine, the SaM146, marries the talents of two disparate companies, each with a mature background of engine development – the Russian company Saturn and the French based Safran. These combined in a new company, PowerJet, which has designed and built the SaM146 engine, a power plant that is optimised for this aircraft.
Careful selection of other major western players – Thales for the flight deck displays, Liebherr for the fly-by-wire system, Honeywell and so on – combined to make the goal of achieving global standards of certification relatively straightforward. In identifying that the broader recognition of the EASA certification requirements would open up world markets, this primary certification authority was chosen as the lead, and the process of involving EASA was started right at the design stage.
The Aircraft The aircraft is a 100 seat regional jet, designed and built by Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC) at Komsomolsk-on Amur (Russia) and equipped with a striking interior designed by the famed Italian design house, Pininfarina. Deliveries to the first western airline to operate it, Interjet of Mexico, have already started. The market is divided into areas of traditional interest of the partners, with SCAC looking after sales and marketing in Russia, CIS countries, China, India, the Gulf region and Southeast Asia. Superjet International (SJI), based in Venice, looks after Western areas, including Latin America, an area with high growth potential for this class of aircraft. SJI is responsible for the design, development and promotion of the VIP and business jet (Sukhoi Business Jet SBJ) versions.
Superjet Training SJI is responsible for training and after sales support worldwide, including SCAC customers.
With the geography of the sales and marketing agreed, the training tasks were neatly divided to recognise that distribution. Although two centres have been established, one in Venice at the Marco Polo airport, and one in Moscow at the legendary Zhukovsky Research Centre, the build-up of the training capability started in Venice.
The two centres now have identical equipment and capability to support the SSJ100, but the road to training for that aircraft actually started by using an A321 simulator (formerly of Alitalia) to create an A321 training package approved for type rating by EASA. Included in this training is the use of a Frasca FNPT2 for an MCC course where necessary. This A321 type rating is a stand-alone capability, which initially catered for individuals, but now has expanded to provide either dry or wet leased training for airlines. Working the way through the formal approval process built an understanding of what was required to set up and install an EASA approved course for all SSJ100 training.
Approvals now exist as an FTO for EASA, as overseen by the Italian authority, ENAC, as well as an Approved Training Center from Rosaviatsia, the agency of the Russian authority. These have subsequently been joined by the Mexican, Indonesian, Armenian and Laotian authorities. One consequence of these multiple approvals is what is believed to be the unique situation in which non-Russian instructors of Superjet Training are formally approved to give instruction for Russian type ratings, a qualification reciprocated for Russian instructors for non-Russian approvals. This European-Russian blended team is unique, and benefits from significant cross-fertilisation of experience. Naturally there is a robust Safety Management System in place at both centres, a feature which has not historically been part of Russian training systems.
With a clean sheet to start the build-up of training, the Superjet Training facility in Venice was able to select state-of-the-art training tools to provide training for flight crew, cabin crew and maintenance teams. Agostino Frediani, Training and Flight Operations VP, Head of SuperJet International's Training Center, ensures that build up is an on-going process, and for the flight crew there is a progression through CBT, produced in-house, a flat panel training device (FPTD) made cooperatively by Thales (now L-3 Link) and GosNIIAS, the Russian aero research centre, a FNPT 2 produced by Frasca, and finally, a Thales-manufactured RealitySeven FFS which is qualified by EASA as Level D.
Tailored Flight Crew Training The training can be broadly divided into two groups – those coming from the “traditional” Russian style of operation, who have normally operated with analogue instruments and large crews, and those largely from the western areas, who are already familiar with glass cockpits and higher levels of automation. One size obviously does not fit all, so training is adapted to ensure the proper level of competencies. The teaching management software recently provided by MINT TMS™, coordinates the planning and progression of the entire training process
The standard course in familiarising crews with glass cockpit and two crew operation is a significant period in the FBS or FNPT 2. Stick and rudder skills do not present a challenge, but up to eight sessions of four hours can be used to attain the necessary soft skills for operation of this state-of-the art aircraft. Given the primary driver of safety, the basic type rating course is of 12 sessions in the FFS (compared with eight sessions with some other OEMs). Superjet International Training provides instructors for at least ten sectors of Line Flying Under Supervision (LFUS) although some authorities and airlines can require more.
The full suite of training devices is now operational in both Venice and Moscow so there is complete flexibility between the points of training delivery, driven by availability and customer preference.
The pool of instructors has been selected from a wide range of nationalities, but exclusively from those who satisfy the criteria of airline experience, good level of English, glass cockpit background and, critically, an enthusiasm for instruction. All instruction can be carried out in English, but, understandably for those who are destined to operate in Russia, the training can also be delivered in Russian. Further recruiting can now embrace a wider pool, and there is an instructor training capability to build up the team. At the present time there are 43 people on the instructional training staff – as well as four specialist training device maintainers.
Cabin Crew Training Whilst there is nothing out of the ordinary required for the safety training of the cabin crew, the usual type-specific training is carried out in an emergency and evacuation trainer built by EDM of the UK, an example of which is installed at each centre. This device is mounted on a tiltable support structure to simulate a left or nosewheel gear failure, and has a full range of scenario-training capabilities. This includes low visibility evacuation and escape slide, as well as multiple-point firefighting, and also has a variety of sound effects to enhance the training environment.
Maintenance Training Sonia Mancuso, Maintenance Training and Examination Manager, is pleased with the success of the maintenance training. In parallel with the flight crew training philosophy, it was decided to establish approvals through EASA, and after getting initial MTO approval in 2009, an Extension of Part 147 certification to RRJ95 was approved in June 2012. As with the flight crews, for many of the maintenance trainees this was an introduction to both glass cockpit and the latest material technology, so the training required significant depth for them to acquire these new competencies. Until now the aircraft itself has been the platform for delivery of the practical training, and a comprehensive training package has been developed in-house. Future plans include expanding the utilisation of advanced training devices such as a Virtual Aircraft Platform, which is presently used to teach the walk round procedure.
Additional courses which can be provided include engine run up qualifications, cabin interior and emergency equipment maintenance, and ground handling training.
Upset Recovery Training Carlo Occhiato, Project Manager Training and Flight Operations for SJI, and a former Alitalia Head of Training captain, has been key in developing the flight crew training pattern for the SSJ100. Whilst there is immense satisfaction is shaping that to the EASA specification, there is one area of which he is particularly proud. Right from the start, the intention was to integrate Upset Recovery into the standard type rating package. Here the illustrious pedigree of the aerodynamic heritage which the Russian team brought to the party becomes clear.
When there has been debate over the validity of upset recovery training for western-built airliners, the OEMs have voiced significant concerns over the possibility for negative training as a result of the FFS envelope being pushed beyond that demonstrated and measured during controlled testing in the aircraft. The philosophy has always been to gradually expand the test flying to verify all the normal operating conditions, and then to extend those parameters by an adequate margin to calibrate handling in the unlikely event of that normal envelope being exceeded.
During a visit by CAT to the Zhukovsky centre a few years ago, the aerodynamicists there stated that the aerodynamics for the extreme manoeuvres and handling, so impressively demonstrated by the latest generation of Russian fighters, had all been modelled prior to the aircraft test flights. They had great confidence in the predictive qualities of those studies, and key to the design of the upset recovery training for the SSJ100 was to use the proven predictive algorithms from the advanced fighter programmes to study and predict handling of the SSJ100 beyond the normal operation of the aircraft in the event of extreme upset. In simple terms, western-built aircraft started from the inside of the envelope and worked outwards, whereas the experts at GosNIIAS, the leading Russian aviation research centre, take a much-expanded database and see what elements can be used to support design and operation of the civil aircraft.
The result of those studies has resulted in three inputs to the L-3 Link FFS. Sukhoi provide the aircraft systems package, L-3 Link the operation of the platform, and GosNIIAS the aerodynamic modelling. Not having flown the aircraft it is difficult to judge the fidelity of the FFS, but, by observing the handling of the FFS during a 27 knot crosswind landing, this system appeared to give good inputs on the effect of yaw. The expanded aerodynamic package was particularly impressive when a minimum radius turn was demonstrated. By starting the turn with an initial pitch input, the vertical component of thrust reduces the lift demanded of the wings, which in turn allowed the fly-by-wire system to fly the aircraft at a lower speed and thus reduce the radius of turn. Not an everyday occurrence, but one which demonstrated a high degree of manoeuvrability not normally seen on 100 seat aircraft.
Up and Running A comprehensive range of training in support of the Sukhoi Superjet has been designed and put in place, and is now running as deliveries are gradually increasing. The unique melding of experience drawn from two very different aeronautical backgrounds has required a considered approach to designing content and style of delivery, but with some 250 pilots trained since February 2011 and nearly 100 cabin crew, together with over 800 maintenance personnel, the system is demonstrably up and running, and ready for the continuing build up in fleet numbers.