Russia’s New Engine Technology: The MC-21’s Home Grown Engine

At last week’s Dubai Airshow, Russian state-owned company Rostec showcased a number of its aerospace products, including the MC-21. The aircraft was seen for the first time outside of Russia sporting its homegrown PD-14 engines, not only on static display but also in the flying display during the week. Simple Flying caught up with Victor Kladov, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy at Rostec, to get some feedback on the new engine option.

MC-21 at DAS
The MC-21 appeared at Dubai Airshow with its PD-14 engines in place. Photo: Joanna Bailey | Simple Flying

MC-21 at Dubai Airshow

The Dubai Airshow has wrapped up for another year, marking a welcome return to international trade shows after more than a year of hiatus amid the COVID pandemic. One particular highlight of this year’s show was the presence of the Russian-made MC-21, which was presented for the first time overseas with its homegrown PD-14 powerplants.

The Russian jet was originally powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engines, the same family of powerplants found on the Embraer E2, A320neo and A220 families of planes. The P&W-powered aircraft is denoted the MC-21-300, while this Aviadvigatel version is the MC-21-310.

Not only was the aircraft on static display with its new Russian engines in place, but the plane also took part in the daily flying display, showing off its capabilities in the skies above the airshow. Simple Flying caught up with Victor Kladov, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy at Rostec, to find out how the PD-14 has been performing so far. He told us,

“So far so good. So far, it’s a very efficient and green engine, in terms of CO2 and in terms of its noise levels. It’s up to standard; it meets the European EASA standards.”

MC-21 at DAS
The MC-21 took part in the flying display during the show too. Photo: Getty Images

At present, just one test model of the MC-21 has been fitted with the PD-14 engines. Conversely, four test aircraft are undergoing certification with the Pratt & Whitney engines. The MC-21-300 is anticipated to achieve certification before the end of the year, while the PD-14-powered MC-21-310 only began flying in December last year.

Why offer a second engine option?

It’s not unusual for aircraft to be certified for more than one engine type. Cost, politics, and personal preference all come into play, but for a company like Rostec, offering more than one choice is even more critical. Kladov explained,

“It will give us two options. When the international customers prefer a Pratt & Whitney engine, we’ll supply it with Pratt & Whitney. For the local market and our Commonwealth of Independent States markets, we can supply it with Russian made engines.”

MC-21 PD-14 engines
The PD-14 engines allow the firm to maintain control over parts supply. Photo: Tom Boon | Simple Flying

Kladov has previously expressed his desire to ‘Russify’ the aerospace industry in Russia, moving away from a dependence on foreign-made parts. In the past, such reliance has hit the development of aircraft like the MC-21 hard, with sanctions disrupting the supply chain and setting the project back by several years. By making more products locally, Russia can maintain more control over the supply of parts and components.

Similarly, by maintaining the partnership with Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft could be more attractive to foreign airlines too. Rostec is currently in the midst of a major marketing campaign in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, presenting the plane to potential customers. Those who already operate P&W-powered aircraft might prefer that engine option over the Russian-made PD-14.

For now, the MC-21’s order book is full of Russian airlines. In the future, with the plane proving itself at home and abroad, perhaps we could see more competition in the short-haul market from this 737 MAX challenger.