MS-21 heads for crucial concept freeze

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United Aircraft's MS-21 is on track to pass the latest design gate in its development in April-May, the final selection of vendors and freezing of the airframe concept.

MS-21 developer Irkut's president Oleg Demchenko says this stage is among the most important as it enables the next phase, issuing of documentation for manufacture.

Malaysian financial company Crecom Burj is expected to make the first advance payment for its 50 MS-21s, he says, a deal reached in mid-2010. Crecom is the only customer whose order is listed as firm out of 150 commitments collected so far.

Demchenko expects another major order for 50, from state corporation Rostekhnologii, to be confirmed in March after ongoing "technical negotiations" are completed. Rostekhnologii wants to place its MS-21s with Aeroflot.

The MS-21 passed airframe mock-up inspection with Russian certification authority ARMAK in November and, in the same month, United Engine's Perm division submitted first PD-14 core engine to bench testing, its alternative to the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan for the twinjet family.

"I believe we're doing the right thing by offering our aircraft to customers with a choice of two engines," says Demchenko.

United Aircraft's relatively new division Aerokompozit has submitted the first sections of carbon wing for the MS-21 to bench testing. "All this gives me the grounds to assert the MS-21 has moved from virtual reality into practical work with hardware," Demchenko says.

He acknowledges difficulty in promoting the MS-21 to the international market - "it feels hard, but we will continue our efforts" - but claims it is on course for maiden flight in 2014.