Irkut’s MC-21 makes its debut

The first prototype Irkut MC-21 aircraft – an MC-21-300 – has been rolled out in a ceremony at the company’s plant in Irkutsk, Russia, with the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in attendance.

Oleg Demchenko, president of Irkut Corporation, opened the ceremony, commenting, “We managed to get together a team of like-minded colleagues. We worked together and we believe the MC-21 will be the best in its class. My thanks also go to the government which has supported the development. We have put into this aircraft not only the latest technology but also our hearts and souls.”

The programme has cost in the region of $4.5 billion, with 30% coming from Irkut’s own sources and 60% from state sources. There are also risk-sharing partnerships with suppliers.

Prime Minister Medvedev remarked, “The creation of MC-21 aircraft is a tremendous victory for the aviation industry, for Irkut Corporation, our scientists, designers, our engineers, and workers.” He added that the programme showed that Russia is able to create the products which compete with aircraft from around the world. He also highlighted though the level of international co-operation in the project.

In fact, while waiting for the VIPs to arrive and the ceremony to begin, an impressive video led guests through the work of both domestic and international partners on the project, reminding everyone of the global nature of the programme.

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Yuri Slyusar, CEO of Irkut’s parent United Aircraft Corporation, admitted that competing against Airbus and Boeing will not be easy. “But we’re sure that the MC-21 is now the most competitive aircraft in its class and believe it will meet the demands of passengers and airlines.

“For budget airlines too, we hope to demonstrate the economic side of this project. We have our own low-cost airline Pobeda here in Russia, which could be a launch customer [for the MC-21] among low-fare companies,” Slyusar added. He also believes that low-fare airline competitors to Pobeda within Russia may come along and use the aircraft.

With entry into service in 2018, Irkut’s first production target is 72 aircraft a year by the end of the decade. Following the MC-21-300 will be the smaller MC-21-200 and there is the larger MC-21-400 on the drawing board, but unlike the other two models, this has not yet been officially launched.

Asked when a decision on the -400 might be made, Slyusar said it was not a decision for this year. “We will bring it into discussion in 2017,” he stated.

After the two speeches, all staff members in attendance – most in MC-21 t-shirts and caps – were called forward for a group photo to recognise and celebrate their work in bringing the programme to this point.

Irkut’s SVP marketing and sales, Kirill Budaev, noted that while it is normal for early sales to be in the domestic market, the MC-21 is a global programme and he sees great potential in South America, Africa and Asia. He noted that there are growing traffic figures in those markets, but they cannot charge very high fares. “The MC-21, thanks to its reduction of operational costs, allows you to be profitable despite the level of the fares.

Budaev believes the MC-21-300 is likely to be the best seller of the family. “If you look at Airbus, their sales are best with the A320 and A321 and the MC-21-300 is targeted at this niche,” he remarked.

The operational costs are not the only place airlines can save, Budaev observed. “We have a list price which is 15% less than the A320ceo. For the MC-21-300, the list price is $91 million, while for the A320 it’s more than $100 million.

According to Budaev, Irkut forecasts a need for 21,060 new aircraft in the seat segment covered by the family over the next 20 years.

Irkut is aiming to perform the MC-21-300’s first flight before the end of 2016.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
Irkutsk, Siberia Region, Russia

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