Russia's next generation airliner, the MS-21, made a high-profile debut at the Farnborough air show with a partial cabin mock-up displayed and more details being released on the project.
The 150- to 210-seat family, the development of which is being led by Irkut and the Yakovlev design bureau under the United Aircraft umbrella, represents a concerted effort by Russia to reassert itself on the civil aircraft manufacturing scene.
Power is provided by either the Aviadvigatel PD-14 twin-shaft turbofan or a version of Pratt & Whitney's PW1000G geared turbofan. The latter option has helped Irkut to its brochure claims of a 12-15% reduction in cash operating costs over current single-aisles.
"Understand that we are taking big risks in this aircraft," says Irkut president Oleg Demchenko. "Firstly, it is a composite wing, which is a very serious issue."
This marks a first for a Russian airliner, and composites will account for around 40% of the structure. The wing will be produced through non-autoclave methods, "an absolutely new technology for which we have signed contracts with Western companies," says Demchenko.
The first flight of the MS-21 is due in late 2014, with Russian certification planned for 2015. Service entry and European approval will follow in 2016. "The most important thing is to keep to schedule and get to market at the right time," says Demchenko.
While he knows that Irkut can create a technically good aircraft, after-sales support is a traditional weakness of Russian aircraft. "This is a very big job for us and this is where we have started to focus our efforts," says Demchenko. Efforts have been made to link with a Western company and Lufthansa Technik is a key target.
United Aircraft announced commitments for 130 MS-21s from three lessors/investment companies during Farnborough, but is yet to land an airline client. Significantly, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin recently urged Aeroflot to acquire the home-grown MS-21 as it contemplated a fleet renewal for its newly consolidating operation.
Demchenko believes that the MS-21 could account for around 10% of the world market in its class. This would equate to 65-70% of MS-21 production going for export. "This is not an optimistic forecast, it's a practical one," he says.
Development of the MS-21 is progressing after the pre-design stage was completed in 2009 and the design phase is about to begin.
IRKUT'S MS-21 FAMILY PLAN
Three sizes of MS-21 are planned, seating 150, 181 and 212 passengers respectively in a single-class layout at 32in (81cm) pitch. This size range points the aircraft directly at the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 single-aisle families.
Each version will be offered in basic and extended-range fit, while a long-range variant of the smallest model is also in the longer-term development plan.
Production partners include manufacturing plants Aviastar and VASO, while Irkut's newly created Aerocomposite division will be responsible for composites. Final assembly will be undertaken by Irkut's IAZ plant in Irkutsk, Siberia while Aviastar will be responsible for cabin furnishing and painting in Ulyanovsk.