MAKS: Irkut to complete MS-21 design phase in 2012

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Irkut remains optimistic that it will be able to complete the final design phase of the MS-21 narrowbody by the end of 2012.

The first flight of the aircraft remains on track for 2014, with certification scheduled to be completed in 2016 and deliveries to begin in 2017, said Irkut president Alexy Fedorov at the MAKS air show in Moscow.

"The first aircraft will be the -200 and -300 variants as that is where there is the most demand. We will decide on the timeline for the -400 later," he added.

The aircraft, which will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1400G engine, is aimed at breaking into the narrowbody market now dominated by the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family of aircraft. It would also have to compete with China's Comac C919, which is due to enter into service in 2016.

Observers, however, believe that it is likely to find it tough to compete against the re-engined A320neo and 737 aircraft. Fedorov, while agreeing that it would be a tough market, also believes that there is sufficient demand in the global market.

"This narrowbody market is the toughest market, but it is also the biggest market. There is room for another player that offers a competitive price and option. The MS-21 can hold its own as it will come out only one to two years after the A320neo," he said.

The company envisages a market for 1,200 MS-21s, with the Russian and CIS regions accounting for a third of that, he added.