Interview with Marc Ventre, member of the Safran Executive Board and head of the Aerospace Propulsion branch.
What's your reaction to this latest step in the SaM146 program?
First, I would just like to say that it's a tremendous success, and even a first. The French and Russian aviation industries had never before teamed up in an equal partnership to develop an engine for commercial airplanes. So I wanted to pay tribute to the people at both Snecma and NPO Saturn for having passed this major milestone. They were able to develop an engine that combines high performance and robustness, which guarantees low operating costs for future operators. This engine offers a real competitive edge in this market. In fact, it's sort of the equivalent of the CFM56, but in the 70 to 100-seat regional jet segment.
How did the partnership with NPO Saturn take shape?
About ten years ago, we first asked NPO Saturn to produce some components for the CFM56 engine. Since this collaboration went smoothly, we decided to submit a joint proposal to Sukhoi, who had issued a call for bids to power its new Superjet 100. At that point, we had to organize the joint development of the engine, which wasn't easy! But we called on our experience with the CFM56, which is a textbook case of cross-border collaboration in civil aviation. It started 30 years ago, and we recently renewed this agreement until 2040. In fact, the ability to work through partnerships is part of Safran's DNA.
As the engine began to be developed, our collaboration with NPO Saturn also expanded. We invested jointly in a new facility, mostly dedicated to the SaM146, through a joint venture dubbed VolgAero, as well as in an open-air test cell in Poluevo, Russia. There are only two other test rigs like that in the world!
What's the next stage in the program?
The engine should enter service by the end of the year, with the delivery of the first production aircraft to Aeroflot and Armavia. We are still focused on the service entry, which has to demonstrate our engine's operational performance, and our ability to deliver support services. Then, we will consider expanding the market, but let's take one thing at a time.