Irkut has confirmed the MC-21 aircraft is meeting weight targets as the first airframe, wings and engines are coming together at the Irkutsk Aviation plant, according to Russian lessor Ilyushin Finance (IFC).
“We see it’s a mature design,” says IFC general director Alexander Rubtsov, who visited the factory in recent weeks.
So far, Irkut has mated several sections of the fuselage, while continuing to assemble the wings. Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney has announced delivering the first PW1400G geared turbofan engine to Irkutsk, with the second engine scheduled for delivery within a few weeks.
“So far, information on the aircraft is very close to [specification],” Rubtsov says. “We see that the aircraft is definitely getting mature.”
A tour of the final assembly line in Irkut revealed a sophisticated assembly operation, Rubtsov says, with fully automated riveting systems and machine presses in final assembly. German robotics company Durr, a major supplier to Boeing and Airbus, provides automation systems to Irkut for the programme.
Irkut plans to complete assembly of the first flight test aircraft by the end of the year. First flight is scheduled in the second quarter of next year.
The MC-21 wing will be fabricated using a new kind of composite fabrication process for a commercial transport-rated aircraft, with out-of-autoclave technology used to lower costs and boost productivity.
“Of course the biggest challenge is for the composite wing technology, because it was never done on such a large-scale wing,” Rubtsov says. “But so far the test results are quite positive.”
At the moment, IFC has no plans to increase its original order for 50 MC-21 aircraft. The crisis gripping the Russian economy has prompted many carriers to freeze fleet expansion plans. In the meantime, IFC is planning to sell the Bombardier CSeries and Sukhoi Superjet to non-Russian carriers, hoping to expand the potential base of customers who can move up to the MC-21 size.