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Are there any reasons other than political why Russian jets don't sell?

For a case study, let's compare Sukhoi Superjet and Mitsubishi Regional Jet. Despite being delayed several times, Mitsubishi has secured more orders than Sukhoi. Similarly, Embraer and Bombardier aircraft sell much more than the Sukhoi Superjet. Many new airlines continue to go to with Embraer and Bombardier. Despite promising lower running, maintenance, purchasing costs, why doesn't this aircraft secures orders?

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    $\begingroup$ Very similar $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 17 '15 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ They aren't nearly as good? Sometimes you just get what you pay for. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Dec 17 '15 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ There is a lot to be said for sticking with an aircraft you already have trained maintenance personnel, spare parts, and pilots for... $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 17 '15 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ Reliability reputation aside, you really can't ignore the political reasons. To put it mildly, Russia has strained its relationships with many of the other countries that buy a lot of airplanes lately. When you're buying an aircraft that you'll likely be operating for a decade or two, the risk of your parts supply chain suddenly being embargoed if the situation escalates further is not a good one. Along those same lines, Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer are probably less likely to stop existing over the next couple of decades than most of the Russian manufacturers. $\endgroup$ – reirab Dec 17 '15 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ One might as well ask why Lada sells much less cars than Toyota despite having lower costs. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Dec 17 '15 at 21:28
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If you take out the political angle (which is by far, the most important), there are a number of reasons for this.

  • Basically, the Russians have a serious image problem. Russian (and Soviet) aircraft have a reputation for poor quality, reliability and safety issues. This will take a long time to fix. In contrast, Japanese have no such problems (In fact, the MRJ boasts of 'legendary Japanese reliability')

  • It is not easy to make airlines switch from an existing aircraft. Most airlines have a huge system built around the aircraft they operate (In fact, quite a few regional carriers operate only a single aircraft type). It would take enormous amount of investment in time and money to shift to a new aircraft and it would take a large incentive for them to put their eggs in a new basket.

  • US is probably the most important market at present and operating there gives other airlines a lot of confidence to buy the jet. If you see the orders for MRJ, most are from US (In fact, almost all orders are from either US or Japan). The Superjet, in contrast, hasn't even applied for FAA certification as far as I know.

  • Promising and delivering lower costs are completely different things. Airlines are more prone to believe companies that have a proven track record of manufacturing civil aircraft than a newcomer.

  • The Superjet is the first airliner to be developed in Russia since the end of cold war. As such there are questions about its industrial capability and quality control processes. Mitsubishi, on the other hand is engaged in a number of aircraft projects (it makes more than a third of 787 structure).

  • Sukhoi has to build a supply chain and support system from scratch (Superjet has a number of foreign components). Again, in the extremely cost sensitive airline industry with tight schedules, there is a perception that the Russian aircraft will not be supported as well as their western counterparts (For example, Boeing boasts of a >99% dispatch reliability for 737)

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for your first and last points. Aircraft require an extremely reliable source of certified spares for decades, and it's entirely unclear that Russian industry can do this with a president who behaves like an international crime lord. This is already affecting Russian gas exports: rbth.com/international/2015/02/26/… $\endgroup$ – Level River St Dec 17 '15 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ The quality is not just an image problem - the comments from friends that have flied on Sukhoi Superjets are rather one sided; no matter if their flight and operational cost properties meet expectations, the plane interior build quality simply isn't that good, even economy-class fliers of the first world feel that it's inferior to other (incl. much older) planes and would prefer airlines that use something else than the Superjets. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Dec 17 '15 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ Quality control is really hard - even Boeing dropped the ball with the 787. It's not really a surprise that Sukhoi struggles too. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Dec 17 '15 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Peteris, interior build is not an essential characteristic of the plane. Different airlines may order different cabin layouts with more or less leg room, cheaper or better materials, etc. There are some plane characteristics that make flight uncomfortable no matter what, for instance noisy engines. But as far as I recall, SSJ engines are quite usual in noise. $\endgroup$ – IMil Dec 18 '15 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Image and trust are huge - passengers (even frequent fliers) are often nervous aboard aircraft, but they've learned to trust the Airbus and Boeing brands. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Dec 24 '15 at 13:11
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I think reputation has a lot to do with this, I'm sure there are Russian aircraft out there that have outstanding safety records, but media has focused on some high-profile accidents as well as shoddy/corrupt government.

Also, certification is probably the other barrier, the bigger the aircraft the more expensive it is to certify it for various civil aviation authorities. I think EASA and FAA have lots of rules/ standards worked out among themselves, but I don't think the Russian authority is well integrated.

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Interesting question: I remember having read long time ago, that Russian-built airliners tended being underpowered respect to their western counterparts, this resulting in slow climbing and other operational difficulties for air-traffic controllers.

Also, the USSR airplanes' instruments were metric; besides pilots say that feet are a bit more accurate in estimating height for things as precission landings, one meter is around three feet, also a mile is a minute of arch, no match between a km and arches, some problems resulted, for example, in places where metric units were used for fuel. For those having a local way for measurement, it's easier adapting to using it plus another more universal system than the reverse, from the general to the private, habitudes are hard to change

A Mars probe crashed when somebody mismatched metric and 'imperial' units in the software, an airliner had to make an emergency landing in an abandoned airstrip, this won the pilot an award, as he managed the no engine, gliding approach at a too high level, by sliding on the side. The reason of this commercial jet running out of fuel was a mismatch between fuel supply units.

They said also that USSR jet engines were more fuel thirsty than their counterparts, perhaps due to the lack of access to the rare elements used for high temperature and stress alloys, this limiting the efficiency of engines.

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    $\begingroup$ The incident you refer to is known as the Gimli Glider, which was an Air Canada Boeing 767. Furthermore, you might want to use the occasional . or newline to make your answer more readable $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Dec 24 '15 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ Those "British units" were U.S. gallons, which aren't the same as British gallons, which aren't used any more (except that car fuel consumption is always quoted as miles per gallon, even though fuel is sold by the litre). $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 24 '15 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Using feet for landings is really not important: 500feet/150metres, 50 feet/15 metres... in an aircraft you're travelling fast enough that you're only accurate to 10 feet/3m at the best of times, and even then only for a moment. "100, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10" is not really much different to "30, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3". That's not to say that changing wouldn't risk problems, but once people are used to it, it's just as accurate. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Dec 24 '15 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @JonStory And the feet-vs-metres thing can't be anything like a deal-breaker, since there are plenty of Airbus and Boeing planes in service with Russian and Chinese carriers. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 25 '15 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I know, most modern airliners have the ability to display either metric or imperial units, anyway. $\endgroup$ – reirab Jan 3 '16 at 20:28

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