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Irkut MC-21, Russia’s homegrown modern airliner.

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There is a new player on the block in the space dominated for so long by the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. The Irkut MC-21 (Иркут МС-21) is a single-aisle narrow-body twinjet airliner that is a huge step forward for Russian-built airliners. Sporting a composite wing and home-developed new jet engine, the Irkut MC-21 is part of an effort to reduce reliance on Western technologies and products. Whilst the MC-21 is currently being certified and tested using a Pratt and Whitney PW1400G jet engine, there will be an alternative offering of a home-built Russian engine, the Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofan.

Irkut MC-21-300 taxying with a snowy backdrop.

Irkut MC-21 Beginnings.

The Irkut MC-21 was developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau with designing done by Irkut, a branch of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The idea was to offer an alternative to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Whilst this might be a hard sell at first due to the Boeing and Airbus options having many years of proven track records under their belt, the initial target will be to sell it at home in Russia. Aging and older technology airliners such as the TU-134, TU-154, TU-204 and YAK-42 would be obvious candidates for needing replacement. The initial variant of the MC-21 will be the longer MC-21-300 which will be followed in the future by a shorter MC-21-200.

The Irkut MC-31-300 flies overhead. The MC-21 wing is made of composites as are many of today’s modern airliners, however, it seems that Irkut saw fit to exclude any winglets or wingtip gates to combat wingtip vortices. It will be interesting to see if these are added in later versions.

Irkut MC-21 Testing.

The Irkut MC-21 project launched in 2007 with the first prototype aircraft rolling out of the workshop in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia on 08 June 2016. This was followed in early May by extensive ground-based testing such as APU testing, taxying and runway roll tests.

In February 2017 the Irkut MC-21 wing box passed 90% of the static ultimate load test. It failed the 100% result. This is common as plane makers try and balance robustness against carrying too much weight. After beefing up with 25 kilos worth of reinforcements, a 100% result was achieved.

On 28 May 2017, the maiden flight of the MC-21 was a very short one by normal standards. The new aircraft was airborne for 30 minutes climbing to an altitude of no more than 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) and holding its speed down to 162 knots (300 kph). Following the flight, Industry Minister, Denis Manturov, claimed that the operating cost of the new airliner would be 12-15% lower than contemporary airliners and that he expected that 1,000 aircraft would be sold between 2017 and 2037. Initially, the production line was expected to turn out 20 airframes per year but this would be ramped up to 70 a year in the future. Russian certification was expected in 2018 with European (EASA) certification to follow in 2019.

Irkut MC-21-300 registration RA-73053, the second prototype, shows off the fuselage profile well here. Of note is the streamlined quite pointy nose with large cockpit windows.

In August 2017, the first prototype did 9 test flights with a focus on controllability and stability in all phases of flight and at different altitudes and speeds. during those initial tests, the prototype was fitted out with over 500 strain sensors. These were designed to monitor every part of the aircraft as it was put through various tests. This way any unexpected stresses or loads could be picked up and addressed if required.

Once these tests were completed, on 17 October 2017 the first prototype took its first long flight flying 6 hours from the Irkutsk aviation plant to Ramenskoye Airport in Moscow. The distance of 4,500 km (2,400 nmi) was covered at an altitude of 10,000 metres (32,800 feet). Further testing was done out of Ramenskoye Airport including altitude tests to 12,000 metres (39,370 feet).

Irkut MC021 Gets Preliminary Certification

In December 2021 the Irkut MC-21 received initial type certification from Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation regulator. The certification was for the MC-21 with Pratt and Whitney PW1400G engines. Certification for the Irkut MC-21 with Russian-made Aviadvigatel PD-14 engines will follow a little bit further down the track.

By 2018 there were already 175 firm orders for the MC-21 and it is anticipated that those customers will start to receive their first aircraft during 2022. The launch airline will be Rossiya Airlines or Rossiya Russian Airlines as it is sometimes known, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, in fact, the largest.

The first Irkut MC-21-300 prototype taking off. Note the ram under the fuselage at the tail is deployed in the case where the pilot overcooks the takeoff rotation and slams the tail into the ground.

Check out the Specs of the two Krkut MC-21 variants below.

Irkut MC21 Specs.

Type Irkut MC-21-200 Irkut MC-21-300
First Flight 28 May 2017
Crew 2
Passengers Two class 132 (120Y / 12J)
Single class 165
Two class 163 (147Y / 16J)
Single class 211
Width(Internal) 3.81 metres (12 feet 6 inches)
Width(External) 4.06 metres (13 feet 4 inches)
Aircraft Length 36.8 metres (121 feet) 42.2 metres (138 feet)
Tail Height 11.5 metres (38 feet)
Main Wing Span 35.9 metres (118 feet)
Maximum Takeoff Weight 72,560 Kilograms (159,970 pounds 79,250 kilograms (174,720 pounds
Maximum Landing Weight 63,100 kilograms (139,100 pounds) 69,100 kilograms (152,300 pounds)
Maximum Payload 18,900 kilograms (41,700 pounds) 22,600 kilograms (49,800 pounds)
Fuel Capacity 20,400 kilograms (45,000 pounds)
Engines x 2 Pratt & Whitney PW1400G / Aviadvigatel PD-14
Engine Thrust x 2 PW1428G 120 kN (28,000 lbf) PW1431G 140 kN (31,000 lbf)
Range 6,400 kilometres (3,500 nautical miles) 6,000 kilometres (3,200 nautical miles)
Expected Service Entry TBA 2022

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