22 May 2020 23:22

Russian Industry and Trade Ministry expects MC-21 aircraft serial deliveries to start in 2021

PERM. May 22 (Interfax) - The Russian Industry and Trade Ministry expects the restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic should not hinder the start of serial deliveries of the MC-21 passenger aircraft in 2021, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said.

"Leaving all [Covid-19-related] safety requirements in place, we should bear in mind that we should follow the original testing timelines as much as we can, so that we could complete the principal work this year and get the certificate and start deliveries of this aircraft to our key customers next year," Manturov told journalists in Perm on Friday.

At the present time, four experimental MC-21 are undergoing tests, all of them equipped with U.S.-made Pratt & Whitney engines. The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) reported in April that the MC-21 had performed over 300 of the planned 650 test flights necessary for its certification in Russia.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) told Vedomosti that, to be granted certification, the MC-21 has to carry out about 800 flights, while now "about 130 certification flights have been performed." Therefore, the MC-21's deliveries to its first customers, which were expected to begin in 2021, could be postponed, Vedomosti said.

The MC-21 will be delivered primarily to Russian airlines, Manturov said. "This doesn't mean that we are not considering foreign markets. We are working on that and have preliminary orders from foreign customers as well. But we will prioritize deliveries to EAEU and CIS countries, and we have enough orders for Russian airlines. Then we'll be moving beyond the outer contour," Manturov said.

As was reported earlier, final contracts for the delivery of a total of 175 MC-21s have been signed at the moment, including for 85 planes with Avia Capital Services, a leasing subsidiary of Rostec (50 of these planes are to be leased by Aeroflot (MOEX: AFLT)); for another 50 with Ilyushin Finance Co. controlled by the UAC, including 16 for its subsidiary Red Wings, for another 30 with VEB Leasing, and for ten with IrAero Airlines.

Apart from the U.S.-made engines, the MC-21 should also be equipped with Russian PD-14 engines designed by the United Engine Corporation (UEC).

"As concerns the PD-14 engine, the UEC general designer and head have just reported how the work is ongoing as concerns the use of the PD-14 on the MC-21. The engines are already in Irkutsk, and I can say that we should install them on an experimental plane in the near future so as to start tests this year. And the second plane will be ready next year. We are so optimizing the testing program. The first experimental MC-21 aircraft, which should complete all of its testing flights next year - we will re-equip it precisely with the PD-14 so as to complete all certification procedures," Manturov said on Friday.

Asked about work on substituting for the importation of composite materials for the MC-21's wings, Manturov replied, "We have installed the wing center section made of Russian composites, which has been tested for a serial MC-21. Therefore, we have solved this problem, and we will install a full-blown composite wing for static tests at TsAGI [the Central Aerohydrodyamic Institute] in July. And I am sure all of the parameters that we originally envisioned in the plane's wing design will be met now that we have a Russian manufacturer."

The MC-21 is a medium-haul passenger airliner being developed by enterprises incorporated in Rostec. The start of its serial production has been postponed several times and is now officially set for 2021. One of the reasons for the delay is the United States' sanctions on the company AeroComposit (incorporated in the UAC), which led to the halt of supplies of composite materials for constructing the plane's wing. Rosatom's plant at the Alabuga special economic zone has been designated as the Russian supplier of wing components for the plane.