I also think the SSJ could be the game changer here. In my opinion, the first thing that has to happen is the aircraft to be a success within the first year of operation. Airlines have to see first hand how the Superjet performs and if it lives up to its advertised perception. Second, the Russian companies have to reach out and convince the western airlines that their products are comparable if not better than their counterparts....Airbus pulled this off perfectly back in the 70's by allowing Eastern Airlines a "test drive" of four A300's at little to no cost to the airline. The tactic worked allowing Airbus to break into the U.S. market....the rest is history. Perhaps if Sukhoi approached a carrier in the U.S. and offered a similar deal, then the said company could see first hand how well the jet could perform within their route system and operations. (Hello AA
As for the public perception of Russian jets being junk or dangerous...I think that idea is overplayed by mainly airplane enthusiasts. Most of the general public could care less what type of plane they are flying, and a passenger boarding an Sukhoi Superjet in Hartford for a flight to Chicago would be more impressed with the new leather seats and creature comforts than where the jet was built. In all honesty, most people would probably care only about weather or not the flight departs on time so they can make their connections. Of course and airline advertisement promoting the "beautiful new Superjet...now in service" playing on TV
with pictures of a shiny new plane and a spiffy cabin, as well as an air fare sale to some nice destination would help too.
But for it all to come together, the Russian plane builders would have to have an organized production line, as well as a strong after sales support team for it all to come together. So far with the SSJ, it seems they have gotten that part right....and I would not be shocked to see an order eventually come in and some Superjets flying U.S. domestic routes within a few years.