Russia’s 737 MAX/A320neo Alternative – The MC-21-300 Takes Maiden Flight

Earlier today, December 25th, 2019, the fourth Russian built alternative to Boeings 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo took its maiden flight from the airfield of the Irkutsk Aviation Plant in Siberia. According to a press release from UAC member Irkut Corporation, the test flight lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes with the aircraft flown at 3,000 meters at a speed touching 500 kilometers per hour.

The test flight lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. Photo: Irkut Corporation

The aircraft was manned by Heroes of Russia test pilots Roman Taskaev and Oleg Mutovin who reported that the plane was able to perform as expected.

The MC-21-300 made its first public appearance at the MAKS air show

Today’s flight was performed by the Irkut Corporation’s fourth built test flight MC-21-300 and was manufactured using results taken from tests done on its three predecessors.

The MC-21 passenger plane billed as a competitor to both Airbus and Boeing made its public appearance at this year’s MAKS air show outside Moscow, where it performed for potential customers following a decade of delays.

Just like its predecessor, the Sukhoi Superjet the program has been hampered by glitches, sanctions, and setbacks.

Considered as being the Russian aviation industry’s big hope in the commercial aviation marketplace, the aircraft is expected to be sold to Russian airlines and former Soviet Union state carriers.

The MC-21 has the same engines as the Airbus A220

On paper at least, the single-aisle twin-engine jet developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau looks good.

Made with a carbon fiber reinforced polymer wing and a mostly lightweight aluminum-lithium alloy fuselage the aircraft is powered by the same Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines found on the Airbus A220 and Brazilian Embraer E2 jets.

The MC-21-300 can carry as many as 211 passengers. Photo: Irkut Corporation

Depending on the aircraft’s configuration, it can accommodate 132 to 163 passengers in a two-class layout or between 165 and 211 passengers when configured as a single-class plane.

The MC-21-300 has a range of between 3,200 and 3,500 nautical miles (6,000 to 6,400 km) which means it is capable of flying to any European destination from Moscow.

Non-Russian airlines are worried about maintenance issues

As of this summer’s MAKS 2019 trade show, the United Aircraft Corporation revealed that they now have 174 orders for the MC-21-300. Its launch customer will be Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot.

Other airlines believed to have ordered the MC-21-300 include the Sakha Republic based Yakutia Airlines and Kazakhstan’s Bek Air.

Threats of more sanctions by the United States are worrying for foreign customers, knowing that the materials for the composite wings now need to be manufactured in Russia.

MC-21 passenger plane
The MC-21-300 can fly to anywhere in Europe from Moscow. Photo: Irkut Corporation

The Irkut Corporation is also considering swapping out the airplane’s Pratt & Whitney engines for Russian-made Aviadvigatel PD-14s.

These kinds of geopolitics and a shift to Russian made engines has airlines outside of Russia worried that they will not be able to maintain the aircraft properly.

Despite the challenges ahead Irkut still plans to build 1,000 aircraft over the next 20 years with the first plane expected to enter service with Aeroflot in 2020.