The PD-8 engine could help Russia save its rapidly dwindling fleet of Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) aircraft.
Ground tests completed
Ground tests have been completed on the PD-8 turbofan engine, carried out by Russia’s United Engine Corporation (ODK). The project is crucial in the development of the “Superjet 100-NEW”, a domestically constructed version of the SSJ100. With foreign sanctions preventing the import of aircraft parts, Russia is relying on the project to save its quickly dwindling fleet of SSJ100s, whose French-made engines can’t be repaired in-house.
Following the successful tests, the engine is being prepared for flight trials using the Ilyushin-76LL testbed later this year. The ground tests required the engine to be fitted with over 500 sensors, which measured everything from temperature to stiffness and vibration. Satisfied with the results of the tests, the ODK commented that the PD-8 is “fully functioning” and that its “main parameters meet specification”. As such, two experimental engines are being constructed for testing on an SSJ100 later this year.
Russia’s aircraft woes
Local aircraft production is of vital importance to Russia, which currently stands to lose large portions of its fleet due to a lack of parts. EU and US sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine have left Russia unable to repair her largely foreign fleet. Even so-called ‘friendly’ countries have been reluctant to sell her parts.
A leaked Russian Ministry of Transport report revealed that Russia would lose up to two-thirds of her fleet if other channels for replacements couldn’t be found. Even if parts could be sourced, they are predicted to lose one-third of their planes by 2025. So Russia’s main hope for fleet renewal lies in its ability to make and repair its own planes. This is where the SSJ100-NEW comes in.
The project of creating a domestically-manufactured SSJ100 predates the war in Ukraine. However, sanctions have prompted its rapid acceleration. The Kremlin has allocated $1.83 billion to the venture, about half of which has gone into the development of the engines alone. Aside from the engines, Russia will need domestic substitutes for 27 other imported aircraft systems.
Once complete, the country aims to produce up to 40 jets a year. But the first test flight isn’t scheduled until 2023, and production won’t begin until 2024, which may be too late. One industry source predicted that over half of the country’s fleet would be grounded by the end of the year, “due to the lack of such mundane things as wheels and brakes, various sensors and valves”.
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