Flying high

Tom Shelley reports on a particulary complicated multinational development in aerospace, only possible with the help of IT

A new Russian-Italian airliner, powered by Russian-French engines, has successfully taken to the skies thanks to collaborative design using 3D CAD and PLM management.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional airliner is designed to be 10% more fuel efficient and have 10% lower operating costs “compared with its closest competitors”, according to Victor Subbotin, president of the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company.
It represents a triumph of collaborative development, being designed in conjunction with the Italian company Alenia Aeronatica and using engines produced by Power Jet – itself a collaboration between Snecma of France and the Russian company NPO Saturn, who joined forces to create the SaM146 propulsion system.
Sukhoi, according to Subbotin, had 1,500 engineers working on the project at its design office in Moscow, with production in Novosibirsk, and final assembly in Eastern Siberia. Alenia Aeronautica has its R&D department in Naples. Parts are supplied by a number of different suppliers including hydraulic systems by Parker, landing gear by Messier Dowty and electrical systems by Hamilton Sundstrand.
Structural design at Sukhoi has all been undertaken using Siemens PLM NX, while Alenia Aeronautica used Vistagy’s FiberSIM for its composite design work, which has been crucial to the weight saving and enhanced energy efficiency of the design. Other suppliers have used a variety of CAD systems including Catia. However, in order to co-ordinate the design, development and manufacturing processes, both Alenia Aeronautica and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft standardised on the Siemens PLM Teamcenter solution.
“We set out with an aggressive plan and succeeded because of our collaboration with partners and suppliers powered by Teamcenter”, Subbotin said.
While Sukhoi Civil Aircraft was only set up in 2000, the new airliner has now flown more than 30 hours in tests, and deliveries are expected to begin in Q3 of 2009. As a testament to the efficacy of the design process, Subbotin said: “Fuel consumption confirmed our anticipated design data. There was a good match of the first flight test results with estimations done at bench testing, including control of balance.”
The aircraft’s first four pre-production prototypes (numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5) are going through the various certification processes, which Tim Nichols, managing director of aerospace and defense global marketing for Siemens PLM, described as a “painful expensive process”. Even for just Russian certification, this will involves 624 test flights. Aircraft number 6 will be subjected to fatigue testing. While the design and development process has been, “paperless” in that data was transferred between all the different design and production departments electronically, Nichols says that organisations such as the FAA still require the signing off of paper documents.
So far the aircraft – which can be configured to have 78 or 98 seats – has 97 orders, including an order for 24 placed at the recent Farnborough Airshow. All orders received so far are from Russian airlines, but the target has always been to sell both the aircraft and the engines on a worldwide basis, with a target of 800 eventual sales.


* Multinational collaboration managed by the Teamcenter PLM packages has enabled the successful development of a Russian-Italian aircraft with Russian-French engines

* First test flights show that fuel consumption, balance and other parameters are close to those predicted by the design process

Tom Shelley

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