Belgian operator VLM Airlines and Moscow-based aircraft lessor Ilyushin Finance have signed a Letter of Intent that will see the airline become the first European operator of the long-range Sukhoi Superjet 100LR regional aircraft.
VLM Airlines has selected the SSJ100 LR to spearhead the company’s launch of regional scheduled services in 2015, with details of its route network to be announced.
Under the terms of the LOI, VLM Airlines will take delivery of two SSJ100 LR aircraft in April 2015 under a 12-year operating lease, with options for two further aircraft. The deal also includes purchase rights for ten aircraft.
Arthur White, CEO of VLM Airlines, says: “While VLM Airlines will continue offering ACMI and charter services with our Fokker 50 fleet, we see an exciting opportunity as a niche scheduled operator. The Sukhoi Superjet 100 LR fits our new strategy perfectly, with its exceptional efficiency and performance, advanced fly-by-wire technologies and spacious cabin.
“We looked at a number of aircraft types in the 100-seat range to see which would give the best passenger experience, flexibility in short-to-medium range destinations and low operating costs – the SSJ100 LR won hands down. It has been great working with IFC and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company and I am looking forward to a mutually profitable long-term relationship.”
Alexander Rubtsov, CEO of IFC, comments:
“This is a significant deal for IFC and the Sukhoi SSJ program, as it represents our first customer in Europe, which we are delighted about. After intense competition and a detailed review, we are extremely pleased that VLM Airlines has chosen to base its future operation on the SSJ100 LR. We believe the aircraft will not only enable VLM Airlines to exceed its growth plans but will also give Europe a live insight into the excellent capabilities and passenger appeal of the Sukhoi SSJ, which represents a truly cost-effective regional aircraft solution.”
The SSJ100, Russia’s first serially manufactured passenger airliner, is a 103-seat regional jet designed and manufactured by Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company in partnership with Alenia Aermacchi. The aircraft performed its maiden flight in 2008 and entered into service in 2011. The operating range of the long-range variant joining the VLM Airlines fleet is 2,470nm (4,578km), while the standard aircraft’s operating range is 1,645nm (3,048km). The SSJ100 is powered by two SaM146 turbofan engines manufactured by PowerJet, a joint venture between Snecma and NPO Saturn. There are currently over 40 SSJ100 aircraft being operated successfully around the world and the type is certified by a number of regulatory authorities including EASA.