Russia’s 737 MAX Competitor: 36 MC-21s To Be Built Every Year

In his meeting with Vladimir Putin yesterday, United Aircraft Corporation’s CEO Yuri Slyusar informed the Russian President that the company intends to produce 36 of the narrowbody MC-21 by 2025. Not only that, but UAC, along with manufacturer Irkut, intends to double that output by 2027. Meanwhile, Rossiya Russian Airlines is preparing to introduce the new Russian single-aisle contender into service by summer next year.

UAC and Irkut say they will produce as many as 72 MC-21s per year before the end of the decade. Photo: Getty Images

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Sanctions giving rise to innovation

The Russian domestic single-aisle medium-haul market capacity is expected to be about 600 aircraft per year over the coming decade. UAC says it intends to capture a significant share of that market. The Irkut MC-21-300 has now performed over 500 test flights on its road to certification after a slow start to the program hampered by US sanctions.

However, the sanctions forced Russia to begin manufacturing its own composite materials. The first wing made by domestically produced composites was delivered to Irkut in May. The first aircraft with the wing is scheduled to perform test flights later this year. Overall, the composite design of the MC-21’s so-called ‘black wing’ increases the plane’s efficiency and, to passengers’ potential delight, widens the cabin.

The United Engine Corporation is calling for policy support to stimulate demand for domestically-built engines. Photo: Getty Images

Domestic engine maker calling for support

Russia has also designed its own engine to power the plane. The jet’s first flight with the homegrown Aviadvigatel PD-14 in December 2020 was a milestone for the project. PD-14 proceeded to clear ICAO emissions tests in January this year, making it an option for international flights – as well as the international market. The MC-21 will therefore be offered with two engine options –  PD-14 and US manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s PW1400G.

However, the Deputy Director-General of the United Engine Corporation, Mikhail Remizov, told media outlet TASS in an interview that he believes that the state needs to intervene to stimulate support for domestically built powerplants.

“There is now a system taking form to support demand for domestic aircraft – support for leasing, subsidizing interest rates, etc. Similar measures are relevant for domestic engines where they compete with foreign counterparts on Russian platforms,” Mr Remizov told the news agency on Friday.

The MC-21 is scheduled to enter service in summer 2022 with Rossiya. Photo: Getty Images

Service entry scheduled for summer 2022

Meanwhile, Rossiya Russian Airlines, part of the state-owned Aeroflot Group, issued a statement yesterday saying it is preparing to fly MC-21-300 in a year’s time. The airline told TASS that it was beginning to prepare pilots and cabin crew, organize maintenance schedules, finalize information systems, and develop a route network for the new planes. Rossiya foresees to be operating the jet in commercial service by summer 2022.

What do you make of the future for Russia’s new narrowbody contender? While it may not make a big splash internationally, will it challenge the current duopoly on the domestic market? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.