Russia's United Aircraft says development of the medium-range Irkut MS-21 twinjet remains on track as fuselage structural tests begin on a key aerostructure component.
On 25 February, a specially chartered Antonov An-124-100 freighter transported the aircraft's centre fuselage barrel from Irkut's manufacturing facility in Irkutsk to the TsAGI Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute located at Zhukovsky near Moscow.
Irkut president Oleg Demchenko says the project has entered the "stage of manufacturing airframe elements and their full-scale testing".
He indicates Irkut has introduced a number of advanced technologies into the test mid-section of the fuselage, which TsAGI will subject to a series of static trials to determine the structural fatigue and residual strength.
Boris Alyoshin, TsAGI director, says the centre fuselage evaluations could take up to two years to complete. In addition to static tests, the programme will include more than 100.000 events to simulate flight.
According to Demchenko, Irkut is to build four MS-21 pre-production examples - one for static trials and three for flight tests.
United Aircraft chief Mikhail Pogosyan says assembly of the prototype aircraft in Irkutsk will begin later this year following the transfer of blueprints to the airframer.