Russia to reduce its reliance on Boeing and Airbus with new passenger jet

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By Marina Romanova

structure_property_image_2943Siberian Irkut Corp. assembling plant, part of the Russian state-run United Aircraft Corporation, rollout a new mid-range passenger jet MC-21-300 this Wednesday in corporation’s home city of Irkutsk, corporation press release said.

The much-anticipated new aircraft was named as a successor to the Tu-154, the legendary Soviet-era trusty beast which had faithfully served then only national carrier Aeroflot since the 1960s. There is a hope that new MC-21 with nearly 25 percent lower fuel consumption than other aircraft in its class could compete with the A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.

The a twin-engine short- and mid-range narrow-body passenger jet, MC-21 is available in two versions —the 200 and 300— which seat 132 and 163, respectively, in a standard two-class layout, or a maximum 165 and 211 seats. Unlike the old Soviet designs, the new jet is built with a significant amount of composite materials that help reduce weight and enhance fuel efficiency. New jet also has an enlarged fuselage (4.06 meters versus 3.96 and 3.75 meters in the A320 and Boeing 737, respectively), which means larger passenger and luggage compartments.

The range capability of the aircraft will vary from 5,500 km to 6,000km (3,400miles -3,700 miles).

It can be powered by American Pratt & Whitney engines or new Russian-built Perm Engine Co.’s PD-14 (Russia’s Aviadvigatel, Perm city), which are being finalized. Several international companies—including Thales, Honeywell, Goodrich and Zodiac Aerospace—have been chosen as component suppliers for the MC-21.

For the last decade or so Russian airlines have increasingly relied on Boeing and Airbus planes, but the government has made the revival of domestic aircraft-making industries a top priority, Associated Press reports.

Boeing’s 737 line of aircraft are some of the world’s most popular planes. According to Russian Business Consulting (RBC) news agency, Russian airlines operate 194 of them — making up around one-fifth of their total fleet.

As of November 2015, Aeroflot, the country’s flag carrier, has 12 Boeing 737s; S7, one of the country’s biggest airlines, has 13; Utair, another major carrier, has 50; all 12 of the jets flown by Pobeda, Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary, are 737s, RBC said, citing data from Rosaviatsia.

information_items_property_2998Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and his deputy Arkady Dvorkovich were attended an official ceremony of MC-2-300 unveiled in Irkutsk. Dmitry Medvedev greeted the new jet as the cutting edge in aircraft design, superior to Western planes currently in service.

“The MC-21 is new evidence of Russia’s ability to create planes that move our aircraft manufacturing industry forward and allow us to compete with other countries,” he said. “There are very few nations that have aircraft-making industries. They are the top league and we mustn’t drop out of it.”

The certification and commissioning of the first MC-21 planes is planned for later this year, and mass production is set to begin in 2017. Irkut has so far received orders for 175 planes, including 50 for Aeroflot. Beginning in 2020, assembling plant plans to produce 20 MC-21 aircraft per year; increasing the tempo of production to 70 planes in 2023.

The Irkut hasn’t revealed the cost of new passenger jet production. In 2012 it was estimated that the MC-21 would require 160 billion rubles (about US$2.4 billion US) worth of investment to develop. Another 70 billion (US$1.05 billion) was said to be necessary for the development of the new domestically designed PD-14 engines, which makes one MC-21 passenger jet to be cost around US$70-80 million vs. the US$100 million for the 737MAX and the A320neo, reports.

The new aircraft’s design characteristics are owned by the Yakovlev Design Bureau, which won the Russian Aerospace Agency competition for new jet design in 2003 and then became part of the Irkut Corp.

“Construction of the first aircraft is the significant milestone of the MC-21 program. We are looking forward to greet at Irkutsk Aviation Plant delegations of our partners, current and future customers”, Oleg Demchenko, the head of the Irkut Corporation emphasizes during the official ceremony of the newest passenger aircraft rollout.

Russian experts believe the new plane will not have any difficulties with international certification as it not trying to break unshakable duopoly of Boeing and Airbus. However, “new player with a competitive product will be able to count on orders from customers who are not ready to wait for a long time” to get jets from the busy market leaders.

As speculates,” Irkut does not expect to squeeze the giants of Boeing and Airbus out of their dominating position, but getting part of the market anyway is quite a feasible task.” Irkut head Oleg Demchenko believes that if the MC-21 wins over at least 10 percent of the market, the project can be considered a success.

Currently Boeing and Airbus represent 80 percent of Russian civil-crafts market. According to Sergei Yamanov, Irkut Corp. production director, in average, every third A320 series Airbus aircraft has components produced at the Russian plant. He added that the French side had recently asked the Irkut assembly plant to double the production rates of the nose landing gear bays for A320 aircraft, but the talks yielded no results yet.

The Irkut plant has manufactured nearly 7000 aircraft of more than 20 types for 40 different countries since it was put into operation in August 18, 1934. Its current production list comprises of Su-30МК and Su-30SM multirole fighters besides Yak-130 new-generation combat trainer aircraft and Yak-152 primary trainer.

Presently there are 14 thousand highly qualified engineers and competent staff working at the Irkut Corp. assembling plant in Irkutsk, Southern Siberian city located 2611 miles from Moscow and 1030 miles from Beijing.

In March 2004 Irkut Corp. became the first Russian defense firm to carry out an initial public offering (IPO). It traded 23.3 percent of the corporation’s shares in the stock market.

The new MC-21 is the very first passenger plane ever assembled by Irkut Corp.