Sukhoi SportJet

At this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, Sukhoi unveiled SportJet, a full-scale cabin prototype designed for teams on the move. Image via Sukhoi Civil Aircraft

APEX Insight: Could the outcome of a sports game, a match or even an entire tournament be determined by the type of airplane the team flies in? Sukhoi’s SportJet concept, unveiled yesterday at Farnborough, enables athletes to recover fully from their previous game and prepare psychologically and physiologically for the next one.

Studies in Scientific American, The Economist and the National Center for Biotechnology Information have shown that recovery/preparation cycles and flying across several time zones correlate directly to athletic performance. And with the kind of serious money that teams invest in transporting athletes — not to mention the sponsorship revenue that chases the victorious — it’s essential for players to touch down in the best possible shape.

The pace for this race to develop may well have been set in a joint initiative back in 2014 when Teague and Nike joined forces to create a cabin concept tailored for the sports market; but at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, Sukhoi has taken things several steps further with the unveiling of a full-scale cabin prototype designed for teams on the move and slated for certification in 2018. Dubbed the SportJet, it’s based on the Russian manufacturer’s Superjet SSJ100, which CityJet recently used to carry Ireland’s football squad to the UEFA Euro 2016 championship.

“SportJet by Sukhoi is a kind of diagnostic and recovery center.” — Evgeny Andrachnikov, Sukhoi

“SportJet by Sukhoi is a kind of diagnostic and recovery center. Major research institutes have been working with professional athletes from different sports for two years, studying the question of adaptation to the conditions of flight,” said Evgeny Andrachnikov, senior vice-president of Commerce at Sukhoi, in an interview for APEX at Farnborough. “The result of this research is a set of procedures that will be provided to the passengers of SportJet, neutralizing the influence of negative factors associated with flight.”

Sukhoi SportJet

The SportJet’s “Diagnostic Capsule” features a display for physiological data, an ECG recorder, spirometer, hypoxic generator, blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter and a dynamometer. Image via Sukhoi Civil Aircraft

The SportJet is divided into four functional areas. The “Main Team Flight Zone” is equipped with 24 business-class seats, which unfold to a horizontal position, with integrated biomedical gadgets including a bioimpedance sensor, pulse oximeter, data reading and processing unit, and an “Airband” designed to monitor the athlete’s functional status during flight. The “Recovery/Medical-Biological Zone” comes equipped with a massage table, equipment for recuperative procedures and a “Diagnostic Capsule” with a display for physiological data, an ECG recorder, spirometer, hypoxic generator, blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter and a dynamometer. The “Coach Zone” comes fitted with 6 VIP seats, a folding table, a wardrobe and a 4-seater sofa designed for discussions of game strategies between coaches, specialists and players and for post-game analysis. Then there’s the “Personnel Zone” equipped with 10 economy-class seats, dedicated to the team’s massage specialists, administrators and equipment managers. The aircraft even has a “smart toilet,” which registers dehydration.

“Flying on our aircraft can be compared to a visit to a physical therapist,” says Mr. Andrachnikov. But it’s not just what’s in the cabin that will deliver athletes to their destination in peak condition. The modest size of the SportJet means it can avoid landing at the major hubs. “It’s about choosing aircraft that have the landing capability to use more airports, including smaller airports. This means they can arrive closer to their destination,” says Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly, a global booking service for private jet charter and private aircraft hire, and whose clients include teams from the sporting world. By arriving at smaller and more private airports, players can avoid the added pressure of unwanted attention at the arrivals gate, leaving them to focus on what’s really important — the game.