Irkut MC-21: A Comprehensive Analysis of Russia’s Advanced Airliner

The Irkut MC-21 is a modern and fuel-efficient alternative in the single-aisle airliner market, ready to challenge industry giants with its advanced design and lower operational costs.

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle airliner developed by Russia’s Yakovlev Design Bureau and produced by its parent company, Irkut, which is a branch of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

This aircraft, which had its program launched in 2007, is designed as a modern and efficient alternative to other narrow-body jets in the market.

The MC-21 conducted its maiden flight in 2017 and comes in two main variants, the MC-21-200 and the larger MC-21-300.

This Russian-developed jetliner aims to compete with industry giants like Boeing and Airbus, offering advanced design and fuel-efficient technologies.

With innovative features, such as a spacious cabin, state-of-the-art avionics, and composite materials, the MC-21 is expected to deliver improved performance and lower operational costs for airlines.

The aircraft’s entry into service is anticipated in the coming years, with the first deliveries set for 2022.

As a key project within Russia’s aviation industry, the Irkut MC-21 represents a significant effort to increase the country’s presence in the global commercial aircraft market.

With its advanced features and competitive performance characteristics, the MC-21 may have the potential to challenge established aircraft models and pave the way for a new era of innovation in commercial aviation.

The Irkut MC-21: An Overview

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle, narrow-body commercial airliner developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau and produced by its parent company, Irkut Corporation, a branch of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

UAC is a 92%-owned subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned aviation giant Rostec.

The MC-21 was launched in 2007 to compete with other mainline aircraft of the 21st century, targeting the passenger aircraft market.

The MC-21 family consists of two variants: the standard MC-21-300 and the short-fuselage MC-21-200.

The MC-21-300 has a length of 42.2 meters, a wingspan of 35.9 meters, and a height of 11.5 meters.

The aircraft family is designed to carry between 132 to 175 passengers in two-class configurations, aiming to provide improved operating economics compared to re-engined narrow-body models from rivals like Airbus and Boeing.

One notable feature of the Irkut MC-21 is its innovative composite wing, which utilizes a new carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer material called Ura3E9.

This advanced composite material allows for weight reduction and improved aerodynamics, resulting in increased fuel efficiency and overall performance.

The MC-21 has undergone various test flights since its first flight in 2017.

In October 2022, an MC-21 experienced a runway overrun at Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport during a simulated engine-out test.

Fortunately, no one was injured, and the aircraft sustained no major damages.

As the Irkut MC-21 continues its development and certification process, it is expected to enter commercial service in the coming years.

With its innovative design, advanced materials, and competitive operating economics, the MC-21 aims to make a significant impact in the single-aisle, narrow-body commercial airliner market.

Development and Design

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle airliner developed in Russia by the Yakovlev Design Bureau and produced by its parent company, Irkut.

The program was launched in 2007, and the first aircraft variant, the MC-21-300, took its maiden flight in May 2017.

The MC-21 aircraft family features a clean-sheet design, with configurations seating between 132-175 passengers in two classes.

This new design allows the aircraft to compete favorably in operating economics with re-engined narrow-body models like the Airbus A320neo and the Boeing 737 MAX.

The MC-21 is offered in two main variants, the MC-21-200 and the MC-21-300, with the latter being the initial focus of the program.

Constructed using modern technology and materials, the MC-21-300 uses a carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) wing to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight.

This advanced wing design provided increased fuel efficiency and a greater range compared to previous generation aircraft.

The Irkut MC-21-300 is powered by Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofans, which are expected to be certified in the near future.

These engines provide the aircraft with high efficiency, reduced noise, and compliance with modern environmental standards.

The twinjet configuration of the aircraft is like other narrow-body airliners in its class, and the PD-14 engines contribute to the MC-21-300’s competitive edge against established models like the A320neo and 737 MAX.

In summary, the development and design of the Irkut MC-21, particularly the MC-21-300 variant, feature modern technologies like the carbon fiber reinforced polymer wing and environmentally friendly Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofans.

This combination results in an aircraft with competitive operating economics and performance in the increasingly congested single-aisle airliner market.

Production and Certification

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle airliner developed in Russia by the Yakovlev Design Bureau and produced by its parent company, Irkut, a branch of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

The MC-21 program was launched in 2007, and the MC-21-200 variant is designed to accommodate around 132 to 165 passengers.

The first flight of the MC-21 took place on May 28, 2017, marking the beginning of the aircraft’s flight testing phase.

After four years and seven months of rigorous testing, the Russian Irkut MC-21-300 received its type certification on December 28, 2021 1.

The certification from Rosaviatsia, Russia’s aviation regulator, is a crucial step for Irkut, allowing the MC-21-300 to boost mass production 2.

During the development and production of the MC-21, there has been a focus on using domestic components and domestic assemblies to ensure self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imports.

In particular, the Russian-made PD-14 engine is an option for the MC-21, alongside the American-made Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engine 3.

The MC-21 is expected to compete with other single-aisle aircraft like the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo.

With its advanced aerodynamics, composite materials, and efficient engines, the MC-21 aims to provide airlines with a modern, fuel-efficient aircraft 4.

Performance and Technology

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle airliner that boasts impressive performance and advanced technology.

One of its key features is its range, which allows it to cover distances of up to 6,000 km.

This extended range is a result of its efficient fuel consumption, leading to reduced operating costs for airlines.

The aircraft is powered by two engine options: the Russian-made Aviadvigatel PD-14 engines or the American Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines.

Both engines contribute to the aircraft’s low fuel consumption, giving operators a choice based on their specific needs and preferences.

In the cockpit, pilots will find advanced technology such as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), a Head-Up Display (HUD), and an Enhanced Vision System (EVS).

The EFB offers pilots easy access to essential information, including maps, charts, and performance data.

The HUD provides critical flight data directly in the pilot’s line of sight, increasing situational awareness and reducing the need to look down at instruments during critical phases of flight.

The EVS, on the other hand, enhances the pilot’s overall situational awareness by offering an augmented view of the outside environment, especially in low-visibility conditions.

To further enhance operational efficiency, the Irkut MC-21 has been designed with modern materials and manufacturing techniques.

It features a lightweight composite structure that accounts for over 30% of the aircraft’s weight.

This results in lower overall weight and, in turn, contributes to a reduction of both fuel consumption and operating costs.

In summary, the Irkut MC-21 offers impressive performance and advanced technology that make it an attractive option for airlines looking to expand their fleets with efficient and cost-effective aircraft.

With its range capabilities, choice of fuel-efficient engines, and advanced cockpit technology, the MC-21 provides a competitive alternative in the single-aisle airliner market.

Orders and Deliveries

The Irkut MC-21 is a next-generation medium-haul aircraft with a capacity of 163 to 211 passengers, featuring innovations such as a longer wingspan and the use of composite materials1.

By July 2018, the aircraft had received 175 firm orders2.

However, due to international sanctions against Russia related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been some delays2.

A significant order for the Irkut MC-21 was placed by the Aeroflot Group, comprising 210 MC-21-300s, 40 Tupolev Tu-214 narrowbodies, and 89 Irkut SSJ 100/95-NEW regional jets3.

This acquisition is expected to help the airline group realize its updated plans and maintain a growth trajectory3.

Additionally, Rossiya Airlines, a member of the Aeroflot Group, placed an order for 18 MC-21 and 34 SJ-100 aircraft from Rostec4.

Other airlines have also shown interest in the Irkut MC-21.

Azerbaijan Airlines is among the customers, while Cairo Aviation has also placed orders for the aircraft5.

Despite the ongoing delays, the aviation industry eagerly anticipates the aircraft’s entry into service.

As of September 2022, the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced another delay in the delivery of the Irkut MC-21, which is now scheduled to start in 20255.

Despite these setbacks, the aviation community has high hopes for the innovative aircraft and continues to follow its progress closely.

Competition and Market Position

The Irkut MC-21 is a narrow-body aircraft designed by Russian manufacturer Irkut to compete with well-established aircraft families such as the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320.

It also faces competition from newer players in the market like the Comac C919 and the Sukhoi Superjet 100.

Targeting both single and two-class configurations, the MC-21 has the potential to appeal to a broad range of airlines and regions.

The MC-21 family includes two variants: the larger MC-21-300 and the smaller MC-21-200, which is designed to compete directly with the Boeing 737 MAX 7 and the Airbus A319neo.

The MC-21-300 features a two-class configuration with a capacity of 132-163 passengers, or a single-class configuration accommodating between 165 and 211 passengers.

Its range of 6,000 to 6,400 kilometers competes with both the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo families, which are each known for their fuel efficiency and extended ranges.

In terms of order books and industry reception, the MC-21 has received 175 firm orders as of July 2018, reflecting a growing interest from airlines.

However, this is still a relatively modest number compared to the thousands of orders received by its major competitors, such as the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo.

Furthermore, the MC-21’s entry into service has been delayed, with the first aircraft initially expected to be delivered in 2022.

As a newcomer in the narrow-body aircraft market, the MC-21 faces significant challenges in establishing itself against competitors with long track records and extensive customer bases.

Nevertheless, the aircraft’s advanced design, fuel efficiency, and range capabilities offer airlines a compelling alternative in a market dominated by a few key players.

Only time will tell if the Irkut MC-21 can successfully carve out a significant market share in the competitive narrow-body aircraft sector.

Challenges and Future Prospects

The Irkut MC-21 is a single-aisle, medium-range aircraft designed to compete with the dominant Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families.

However, the aircraft has been facing several challenges on its journey to enter commercial operations.

A significant hurdle affecting the MC-21’s prospects are international sanctions, which have significantly hindered its development and production progress.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to multiple countries imposing a series of international sanctions targeting Russia’s economic sectors, including the aerospace industry.

The United States, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, France, Belgium, and the European Union have all contributed to these sanctions, affecting the availability of crucial components for the Irkut MC-21.

Due to the sanctions, the MC-21 has had to undergo an import substitution process, replacing previously imported components with domestically produced alternatives.

While this process has been moving forward, it has caused delays in the aircraft’s overall development, pushing back the initially planned delivery date.

Furthermore, these sanctions have limited collaboration with major international partners, making it more difficult for Irkut to access cutting-edge technology and expertise.

Another prominent challenge for the MC-21 is obtaining certification from established aviation authorities.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is a particularly important entity for Irkut to secure a certification from, as it would significantly impact the aircraft’s appeal in the global market.

In light of the ongoing geopolitical tensions, achieving EASA certification may prove to be an uphill battle for the MC-21.

One area where the MC-21 may have a better chance of finding success is within domestic Russian markets.

By focusing on Russian avionics and leveraging local expertise, the aircraft could establish a foothold in an aviation market less impacted by the imposed sanctions.

Additionally, as the sanctions force the development of a “fullyRussified” version of the aircraft, the MC-21 could provide an opportunity for Russia to showcase its indigenous aerospace capabilities.

In conclusion, the Irkut MC-21 faces numerous challenges in its development and prospects due to international sanctions and geopolitical tensions.

However, by focusing on the domestic market and overcoming certification hurdles, the aircraft could eventually find a niche in the global aviation industry.

Footnotes

  1. https://airinsight.com/irkut-mc-21-gets-type-certificate-after-four-years-of-testing/ 2
  2. https://simpleflying.com/russia-mc-21-type-certification/ 2 3
  3. https://www.flightglobal.com/programmes/mc-21-ascent-marred-by-sanctions-suspicion/129922.article 2 3
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irkut_MC-21 2
  5. https://www.aerotime.aero/articles/32117-russia-delays-mc-21-again-deliveries-to-start-in-2025 2
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SuchAirplanes Staff
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12 Comments

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  4. The MC-21 seems like a promising aircraft. I’m curious to see how it will perform in the market and if it can really compete with the likes of Boeing and Airbus.

  5. The MC-21’s range and fuel efficiency are impressive. It will be interesting to see how it compares to other aircraft in terms of operational costs.

  6. It’s great to see Russia’s aviation industry making advancements with the MC-21. I hope it brings new innovations and options for airlines around the world.

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