Russia’s New MC-21 Medium Haul Airliner Set To Compete With Boeing’s 737 Max

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Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

MC21 Makes Maiden International Flight This Morning From Moscow To Istanbul

Russia’s medium-haul passenger liner MC-21 has made its debut international flight from Zhukovsky airport near Moscow to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport this morning. This marks the first international flight and public use of this aircraft outside Russia, and is part of its testing and development phase. The MC-21 performed its first flight in 2017. It was demonstrated to the general public for the first time at the MAKS airshow earlier this month.

It is anticipated that the MC-21 will receive certification next year. Produced by the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) based in Moscow, it is being positioned as a competitor to the Boeing 737 MAX.

The launch however has been subject to delays. US sanctions on Russia have pushed back production and cut off access to various products, in particular to composite wing materials, partially to protect Boeing and the launch of its 737 Max. As a result, Russia has been investing in its own composite materials industry in order to sustain mass production. Boeing’s 737 Max meanwhile has been the subject of two major crashes shortly after it was released to the global market. Russia’s MC-21 is therefore poised to take advantage – as orders for the MC-21 are piling in. As of the end of 2018, UAC had received 175 orders for the aircraft, including 50 from the Russian state carrier Aeroflot.

Russia now needs to pull off the trick of having its composite materials industry up to speed and able to deliver parts for what should otherwise prove to be a competitive aircraft. If so, it will have proven another example of how the imposition of sanctions merely makes countries such as Russia stronger and more self-reliant in the longer term, once the initial pain of the denial of service from the United States wears off.

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