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Yakovlev Yak-242 / ex Irkutsk MC21 / MS21

The Russian medium-haul narrow-body aircraft MS-21 is intended to become a direct competitor to the most popular Airbus A 321 and Boeing 737-800 models. This is the second project after the Superjet, which was created in the Russian Federation without any backlog since the days of the Soviet aviation industry.

The first tender for the aircraft project was held in 2003, then it was planned that the aircraft would receive all the necessary certificates by 2012. But in 2018, the manufacturer of the composite wing for the MS-21, the Aerocomposite company, fell under US sanctions and lost the opportunity to purchase materials. Then Rosatom took up the import substitution of the necessary composites. On December 25, 2021, the aircraft took off for the first time with a wing made of Russian-made polymer composite materials.

Now MS-21 is certified to fly with the engine of the American company Pratt & Whitney, but there were problems with it. "Foreign manufacturers refused to supply parts for the aircraft to Russia," Denis Manturov said on Tuesday. And this despite the fact that they were paid in advance. Nevertheless, the UAC plans to deliver two production MS-21 aircraft by the end of 2022. Serial production of MS-21 liners entirely from Russian components is planned to begin in 2024. Especially for the MS-21, the United Engine Corporation developed the PD-14 engine.

The MC-21's maiden flight 28 May 2017 took place as expected, with all the plane's onboard systems working flawlessly. Aeroflot has agreed to give five billion dollars for 50 Irkut MC-21 aircraft. A firm contract provides for deliveries from 2020 to 2026; the amount includes not only the market value of the aircraft, but also after-sales service.

By 2018 Irkut had received a loose order for almost three hundred Irkut MS-21, it was not clear how the Russian manufacturer is going to compete with the Boeing-737 MAX and Airbus A320neo, as well as the Comac C919 of the Chinese company Comac (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) . The declared price of the Comac C919 is 50 million dollars - about half that of Western counterparts, and comparable to the price of the Irkut MS-21.

But as of late 2018 the airliner itself had never been officially presented at any of the international air shows. Even at MAKS in 2017, the MS-21 was present in the form of a bench sample. Due to the sanctions and bureaucratic difficulties at international air shows, especially in Europe, the Russian delegation is less and less representative every year, and airplanes and technical developments are present at best in the form of mockups. The American PW1000G engines were being installed on the MS-21. The Russian airliner MS-21 is supposed to be equipped in the near future with a domestic PD-14 engine. This may lead to an increase in the cost of operating the aircraft for its future buyers. The installation of domestic engines on new liners will not necessarily lead to a reduction in their cost, and in fact may even increase the cost of owning the aircraft. The MS-21 is competing directly against the Boeing-737 and the Airbus A-320 in the most capacious segment of the global commercial aviation market: mid-range travel. Russian observers expected the MC-21 to fare well against the US and European heavyweights. The MC-21 is designed to be faster, more efficient, and less expensive than its Western counterparts, having incorporated the latest in the field of aircraft construction, engine technology and avionics systems in its design.

For instance, while the Airbus A-320 and Boeing-737 have cruising speeds of 828 km/h and 842 km/h, respectively, the MC-21 is expected to have a cruising speed of 870 km/h. Furthermore, the plane's cost per unit is expected to run somewhere in the neighborhood of $72-$85 million US, depending on modification.

On the environmental front too, the MC-21 has been designed to come out on top, with pollution emissions reduced by 20% lower than Boeing and Airbus, and service costs are 12-15% lower. According to Irkut Corporation's calculations, airlines can expect to save up to $3 million per year operating the MC-21 compared with the US and European planes. The MC-21 incorporates a composite wing design – the first of its kind for a domestic civilian aircraft of this class.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose portfolio includes aircraft construction, has taken a highly active role in promoting the new aircraft and supporting its development. On 30 May 2017, the minister finally revealed the real reason for the number '21' in the MC-21's name: "the MC-21 is 21% superior to its competitors in every respect – fuel consumption, maintenance requirements, comfort, noise isolation, and weight. And of course, buyers will earn 21% more by flying these aircraft, compared to the catalogue prices of Boeing and Airbus planes."

In the early 2000s, Russia’s space authorities launched a competition for the development of a new aircraft to replace the Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-154 that was designed in the mid-1960s. The Yak-242 was announced the winner of the competition shortly before the Yakovlev Design Bureau became part of the Irkut Corporation, later amalgamated into the newly-established United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The merger was mutually beneficial, as Irkut was looking for a design bureau for civil aircraft, while Yakovlev needed physical production capacity.

The Russian Defense Ministry planned to order a revamp of MC-21 passenger jets to create reconnaissance aircraft similar to the US AWACS aircraft, the head of sales for the plane’s producer, Irkut, told RIA Novosti on 17 June 2015. “We haven’t begun talks yet with the [Russian] Defense Ministry on the precise base configurations, but it’s assumed this process will begin soon,” Valery Lunkov said at the Le Bourget Air Show outside Paris. According to Lunkov, the Defense Ministry ordered 45 new Russian short- and mid-range MC-21 passenger planes to transport troops in order to replace the aging Tu-134s and Tu-154s.

Oxygen was cut off for the MC-21 and Sukhoi Superjet New projects. Foreign companies refused to supply components for Russian aircraft, the Ministry of Industry and Trade reported October 2020. If earlier supplies of parts for wings and engines were stopped, now supplies of electronics can also be blocked. And if the first parts could be replaced with Russian ones, then with electronics it may not work out. "Foreign partners, some publicly, someone secretly" reported that "they will not continue relations with our aircraft manufacturers", and "neither under existing contracts, nor under new contracts," - Vasily Shpak , director of the radio-electronic industry department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said.

The MC-21's problems began in 2018. The United States has included Aviadvigatel and Aerocomposite on the sanctions list, and Tekhnologiya, the developers of engines and composite parts for aircraft wings. In 2019, sanctions forced companies from the United States and Japan to block shipments of the same composite parts. UAC was able to launch its own production. Soon they were able to substitute import for the engine, Oleg Panteleev, executive director of the Aviaport agency said in October 2020.

Panteleev said “Structures made of domestic composites are already being tested, and, in general, there is no doubt that these tests will be completed successfully. As for the PD-14 engine, for those components that are not currently supplied by foreign partners, alternative suppliers have already been found, one way or another. It is expected that tests of the MS-21 aircraft with Russian PD-14 engines will begin by the end of this year. There is enough time for suppliers, namely domestic ones, to develop their production capabilities to such a level that they can easily ensure serial assembly of the engine. "

The Ministry of Industry and Trade, regarded the break of supply contracts as an attempt by "the West to stop Russian projects in the field of civil aircraft construction." And so far, to all appearances, the West is doing well. The release of MC-21 has already been postponed three times, the last date is 2025. This is even later than the expected release of Superjet New - they want to present it by 2023.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2022 15:28:22 ZULU