Equipped with Russian PD-14 turbofans, MC-21-310 makes its maiden flight

Aircraft developed by Irkut has a capacity for up to 211 passengers and is expected to enter service in late 2021, initially with Pratt & Whitney engines

Russia achieved a long-awaited goal on Tuesday, the first flight of the MC-21-310 airliner equipped with PD-14 turbofans produced in the country. The takeoff takes place more than three and a half years after the inaugural flight of the first prototype, which uses Pratt & Whitney’s PW1428G engines, but means being able to replace a crucial component to avoid dependence on the West.

“Today we see the result of a consistent state policy in the development of high-tech industries,” said Denis Manturov, Russia’s minister of industry and trade. The director general of Rostec, a state-owned company that controls the Russian technology industry, added the MC-21 will “returns our country to the top league of world aviation”.

The flight was carried out at Irkut’s facilities in southern Russia and lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes. The crew of two test pilots and an engineer performed initial engine checks, as well as aircraft stability tests.

The PD-14 turbofan, from the manufacturer Aviadvigatel, has been developed since 2009 as a replacement for the PS-90 engine, which is used in jets such as the Il-96 and the Tu-204. The goal was to generate fuel savings of 15% compared to it, thanks to the superior bypass ratio of 8.5: 1, the diameter of 1.9 m and the power of 30,800 lbs. However, the PD-14 is inferior in this respect to Western engines like the CFM Leap and the PW1000G itself, which equips the variant MC-21-300.

The test flights started only in 2015 with an Il-76 freighter adapted to receive it. The engine was eventually certified by Russian authorities in 2018, but it took Irkut another two years to finalize a prototype dedicated to the PD-14.

Deliveries in 2021

Russia is in a race against China to put into service the first single-aisle jet to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. The Chinese are also in the final stretch of development for the C919 and both hope to certify them in their respective countries by the end of 2021.

UAC, which controls Irkut, intends to deliver the first MC-21-300 to Aeroflot within a year – there is no deadline yet for the Russian turbofan version. The company claims to have 175 firm orders for the jet, all from Russian companies or from neighboring countries. The Russians intend to create a family of aircraft with the smaller version, MC-21-200, and one of greater capacity, the MC-21-400.

The PD-14 turbofan was tested by an Il-76 (Alex Snow)
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