Russia Wants to Rival Boeing, Airbus with New MC-21 Passenger Plane

Russia’s new Irkut MC-21 passenger plane was unveiled on Wednesday at the MAKS-2019 air show, is billed as a competitor to Western giants Boeing and Airbus even though the project has been hampered by sanctions and setbacks with its predecessor, the Sukhoi Superjet, the Associated Press reports.

The new narrow-body aircraft was the showpiece at the air show outside Moscow, which President Vladimir Putin formally opened on Tuesday with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Produced by Siberia-based manufacturer Irkut, the medium-haul plane seats up to 211 passengers and has a range of 6,000 km (3,730 miles) — enough to take it from Moscow to any European destination.

It is the Russian aviation industry’s big hope after setbacks with the regional Sukhoi Superjet 100 liner, launched in 2011 as the first post-Soviet civilian airplane.

“We have achieved several agreements on MC-21 during this forum,” said Ravil Khakimov, the head of Irkut, without giving details.

Irkut says on its website that it has signed hard contracts for 175 planes already, listing mostly Russian airlines as clients.

The plane’s catalog price will be cheaper than its direct competitors in the medium-haul range, Khakimov promised. The MC-21 “is set to compete on the market with Airbus 320 and Boeing 737,” said Oleg Panteleyev, an aviation analyst who heads industry website

Putin at the opening lauded Russia’s aircraft manufacturers for “breakthrough projects” such as the MC-21, and described the country as “among the flagships of the global aerospace industry.”

The air show is the first since Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a conglomerate of civilian and military aircraft makers including Irkut, was put in the hands of state-owned corporation Rostec last year.

An MC-21 prototype made its maiden flight in 2017 but serial manufacturing was delayed, partly due to U.S. sanctions that affected the production of its carbon composite wings.

Though it was supposed to be put in service at the end of 2018, Rostec chief Sergei Chemezov said this year the first MC-21 planes would be delivered to Russian state-owned Aeroflot airline only in 2021.