Russia Flies First New Post-Soviet Passenger Airliner With Domestic Engines
A sanctions-proof airliner
Russia flew a new passenger airliner with domestically-built engines for the first time since the Soviet era on Tuesday, the start of what it hopes will be a revival of a civil aviation industry to challenge Boeing and Airbus.
The medium-range MC-21 plane took off from a Siberian airfield powered by Russian-built PD-14 turbo-fan engines. The plane first flew in May, 2017, but with U.S.-made engines.
The MC-21 is built by Irkut Corporation, part of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), and the engines are built by United Engine Corporation, all of which are majority owned by Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate.
UAC said the plane carried out a range of flight tests in a maiden voyage that lasted one hour and 25 minutes.
The Soviet Union was a major builder of passenger airliners used widely at home and in allied countries. But after the fall of communism, airlines largely retired their fleets of Tupolevs and Ilyushins for Boeings and Airbuses.
The Kremlin has been pushing to make Russia less reliant on Western imports, particularly since 2014, when the United States and EU imposed some financial sanctions in response to Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Moscow had planned to begin delivering the MC-21 to buyers in 2019, but that date was pushed back, with Rostec saying U.S. sanctions had forced manufacturers to replace composite materials in the wings with Russian-made equivalents. The first deliveries are now expected at the end of next year.
Two modifications of the plane, which can seat 130 to 211 passengers, will be made available for order – one with U.S. Pratt & Whitney PW1400G-JM engines and the other with the PD-14 engines, UAC said.
Orders have been placed for 175 of the aircraft, with state carrier Aeroflot accounting for 50, UAC said. It did not say how many would include the Russian-built engines.
After the Soviet collapse, Russian-made airlines began to favour Western planes, over domestic offerings. Aeroflot has more Airbus & Boeing than Sukhoi models (which use French engines, anyway). S7 & Ural Airlines have no Russian aircraft at all.
— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) December 15, 2020
The Irkut MC-21-300 has capacity for 211 seats, and is designed to compete with the Airbus 320 and the Boeing 737. It is planned to be introduce the aircraft to service next year, and it will be considerably cheaper than its Western rivals. The big test will be safety.
— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) December 15, 2020
Good news, not only for #Russia, but for indiscriminately Western-sanctioned zones, like #Iran, where civilians are put at risk every day due to lack of airplanes and parts to renew the old commercial fleet. https://t.co/fHCYuzCGTS pic.twitter.com/DG3RCdFkGw
— The Wolf Report (@thewolfreports) December 16, 2020
The MC-21 program already has flown four MC-21-300 prototypes equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW1400G turbofans and now hopes to gain certification for the Western engine-powered version by the end of 2021.
The PD-14-powered MC-21-310 emerged as a reaction to the threat of tightening economic sanctions by the U.S. that might limit the amount of Western content in the new narrowbody.
UAC has since offered the PD-14 to power China’s Comac C919 to address U.S. sanctions against that country.
Source: Aviation International News
State technology firm Rostec’s general director, Sergei Chemezov, adds that the occasion marks the “unification” of two major Russian civil aviation programmes, the MC-21 and PD-14.
The MC-21 had previously only flown with the rival Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engine. This variant of the twinjet is desginated the -300.
Chemezov says the MC-21 will “returns our country to the top league of world aviation”.
United Engine Corporation’s Aviadvigatel managing director, Alexander Inozemtsev, says the development of the PD-14 is a “breakthrough” for Russian powerplant manufacturing.
“For the first time in many years, a new, entirely-Russian engine has appeared,” he says.
Federal air transport regulator Rosaviatsia certified the PD-14 in 2018. The engine has a take-off thrust of 30,800lb (137kN) and a fan diameter of 1.9m.
Aviadvigatel says the specific fuel consumption of the engine is 10-15% lower than that of previous-generation engines, owing to the use of innovative technology and materials.
Source: Flight Global