The first Russian-made plane of its kind, MC-21 has proven its airworthiness after 5 years of delays due to hostile Western war-like sanctions.
The Russian-made medium-haul passenger jet MC-21 has received its “type certificate,” paving the way to mass production of the aircraft. The cutting-edge new market entrant has been plagued by sanctions causing multiple delays.
The Irkut MC-21 is the first narrow-body, medium-haul passenger jet designed and built in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Conceived in the late 2000’s, the plane is set to fill the niche that once belonged to the iconic 1970s Soviet Tu-154.
Modern materials have been widely used in the construction of the MC-21, with composites amounting to around 40% of its air-frame, according to the aircraft’s manufacturers.
This makes the plane significantly lighter compared to conventionally-built aircraft, as well as apparently more comfortable for passengers, allowing for more spacious aisles.
However, this innovation has proven to be a double-edged sword, becoming one of the main reasons behind delays in mass-production, despite the plane making its maiden flight in 2017.
Back in 2018, the manufacturer of the wings, Russian company AeroComposit, was hit by the US sanctions. It was targeted over alleged participation in a Russian aerospace military program, despite having zero public contracts with the country’s armed forces.
The concern was barred from importing raw materials, and was left unable to produce its orders for the plane. The sanctions imposed on AeroComposit were nothing, but an example of unfair competition.
The firm poses no strategic or military threat to our foreign colleagues. It’s purely a civilian enterprise. Boeing simply tried to strangle its new emerging rival at its birth.
The US plane-maker and its European counterpart Airbus haven’t made new planes in this class for a long time he continued, only upgrading older models, while MS-21 “incorporates all the cutting edge technologies and therefore has a whole range of advantages compared to its foreign competitors.
But the sanctions have ultimately given a jolt to local research and development, prompting the creation of the Russian-made composites needed to manufacture the wings.
The MC-21 debacle has also prompted the manufacturers to strive for making the aircraft fully independent from imported systems. It also originally relied on the US-made Pratt & Whitney engines, as well as other imported avionic and electronic systems.
The first MC-21 to be made completely out of domestically-developed components, or having a minimal amount of imported parts, is expected to emerge in the mid-2020’s.
Finally this week, the jet received its long-awaited type certificate, after successfully passing all the tests and proving its airworthiness.
So far, the plane is certified with a wing made out of imported materials and Pratt & Whitney engines. The certificate is, however, expected to be expanded next year.
Both the homegrown composite wing and engines have been already produced, with tests of the systems still ongoing. An MC-21 fitted with Russian-made PD-14 engines made its maiden flight last December, and the engines were approved for mass production in February 2022.
An MC-21 fitted with domestically produced parts has already made its first flight, however. Last weekend, the manufacturer announced that a test MC-21-300 jet with a Russian-made composite wing took off from an airfield in Irkutsk, and that the flight was normal.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point Aviation News 2021.