Orders for Russian manufacturer Irkut’s MS-21 twin jet airliner have reached 235 aircraft, the company revealed at the Dubai Airshow this week.
Customers include Aeroflot, Ilyushin Finance, Rostechknologii and Crecom. Irkut plans to fly the aircraft for the first time in 2014 and achieve European certification and first customer deliveries in 2017, according to Kirill Budaev, Irkut’s vice president, sales and marketing.
“MC-21 is the major perspective project of Russia’s civil aviation industry,” Budaev said. “Our designers work hard to realize a plane which is fuel efficient and less heavy than its Western peers.”
“We do not even need sharklets or winglets,” Budaev said. He noted that the MS-21, which will feature a 22.5 in. aisle, is built to give a “widebody feeling in a narrowbody aircraft.” The fuselage will be 25% wider than the 737’s and 11% wider than the A320’s.
“Fuel efficiency is crucial as the OPEC predicts that oil prices will rise at least by 30 percent per barrel until 2030,” Budaev said. “Compared to its existing peers like the Boeing 737, the MC-21 offers 12 percent to 15 percent operational cost reduction. This is thanks to the plane’s aerodynamic design and its large fuselage, the largest of its class.”
The Russian jet will also feature wide windows, a wide fuselage, rounded overhead bins and Zodiac Aerospace seats. The MS-21 will feature composite wings and aluminium fuselage. There will be two engine options: the Russian Aviadvigatel PD-14 and the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G.
The MS-21 is intended to compete with the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, which use new generation engines and sharklets/winglets to achieve improved fuel efficiency. Irkut says its all-new design will result in lower procurement and operating costs, with 10% less fuel burn than the A320neo. It is slated to replace the Tupolev Tu-154 and Tupolev Tu-204/214 in service.
“A clean-sheet design is [needed] for competitiveness,” Budaev said. “You’re not able to achieve that where you just improve a program that is 50 years old.”
At the Paris Air Show in June, state-owned United Aircraft Corp (UAC), which owns Irkut, believes it can become a serious third player in the commercial market by 2025, pinning its hopes on its mid-sized MS-21 airliner.
“We are here to convince our customers, our potential customers, that we are capable of all these targets that we put in front of us,” UAC Chairman Mikhail Pogosyan said.
His colleague Alexey Fedorov, president of Sukhoi unit Irkut, said: “Any new planes from Airbus and Boeing won’t come until around 2020, so we feel the MC-21 will enable us to take a good share of the market and compete well with them”.
Moscow is pushing for Russian companies to raise their spending in research and development as the government seeks to modernise and diversify the economy away from energy and other resources.
However, whether Russia can translate its ambitions into hard orders is another matter, given competition from Brazil’s Embraer, Canada’s Bombardier and fellow new market entrant China.
Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) is not short of ambition, with its C919 passenger jet accumulating 165 orders.
“Given the long lead times and cycles in the industry, Russia has put together the right ingredients to make their presence felt in traditional Airbus-Boeing territory,” said Saj Ahmad of aviation consultancy FBE Aerospace. “But it remains to be seen whether airlines can be convinced.”
The 150-passenger MS-21-200 is priced at US$69 million while the 180-passenger MS-21-300 is priced at US$78 million and the 210 passenger MS-21-400 is priced at US$84 million.