The A320 and 737 jets are expected to have a new competitor by the end of next year, when Irkut is due to deliver the first MC-21-300 aircraft, the most advanced commercial jet ever developed in Russia.
According to the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Russia, Denis Manturov, the forecast is that the MC-21 will receive the type certificate from the Russian authorities in mid-2021, which would pave the way for the aircraft to enter service until the end of the year.
Irkut (controlled by United Aicraft Corporation) intended to approve the aircraft by the end of this year and begin deliveries in the first months of 2021, but the new coronavirus pandemic has made that schedule unviable.
“The access to Russia is actually closed for foreign specialists during the pandemic period. Movement across the country of Russian participants in the cooperation has also been hampered. Therefore, we now expect to obtain the Russian type approval certificate approximately in mid-2021. European one – one year later In such a case, we will be able to ship the first commercial airplane to an operator in late 2021,” Manturov said.
The MC-21 was originally designed to use many components produced in the West as a way to make it more attractive to its potential customers. However, the strained relations with the United States has made Russia invest in products developed in the country itself.
The most evident effort is to equip the MC-21 with Russian engines. Aviadvigatel is even developing a new turbofan, the PD-14, which will equip the jet around 2022. Until then, the aircraft will continue to use the PW1400G engine, which also equip the A320neo and E195-E2.
“The PD-14 engine already has the Russian type approval certificate. Certificate validation with EASA is planned at the turn of 2022. Two airplanes will be engaged in flight tests,” Manturov noted. “Completion of MC-21 flight tests with the PD-14 engine is scheduled for the second quarter of 2022,” he added.
The MC-21 emerged in 2006 as a successor to the Tu-154 trijet and was based on studies by Yakovlev’s Yak-242. The program envisaged the jet coming into service in 2012, but repeated delays meant that the aircraft would not make its first flight until May 28, 2017.
Since then, four prototypes have taken turns in flight tests, the last of which has just been incorporated into the program. The variant that will debut is the MC-21-300, with a capacity for 163 to 211 seats. There are projects for a minor (MC-21-200) and a major (MC-21-400) variant, but there is no clear forecast as to when they will actually be launched.
According to Irkut, the MC-21 can fly for up to 6,000 km nonstop and at a cost 15% lower than that of older aircraft. Its price, estimated at $91 million, is much more affordable than an A320neo (around $110 million), but so far only Russian airlines have chosen the model, with the exception of one company in Egypt and one in Azerbaijan – 174 orders
Russian airline Aeroflot will be the first operator of the MC-21-300, which will join the SSJ100 as representatives of the country in the company’s fleet. Irkut claims to have 175 firm orders for the new model.