Irkut MC-21 rolls out

June 9, 2016: Irkut rolled out its challenger to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800/8

MC -21 rollout. Photo: AIN Online via Google images.

yesterday the MC-21-300.

The new airplane is powered by either the Pratt & Whitney GTF or a Russian engine. A report from a Russian-sponsored media site is here.

LNC previously published an analysis of the economics of the MC-21 behind our paywall. We’ve opened up the first of four parts to all readers here.

32 Comments on “Irkut MC-21 rolls out

  1. Looks OK. Unfortunately Russian engineer’s don’t seem to have a lot of luck with their politicians.
    Don’t really understand the wingtip thing,surely it would be even better with winglets? Is elliptical load distribution the reason for the spitfire wing and other aircraft of the period,another thing that seems to be beyond my level of education.
    Thanks for making this free!

    • Just read, The spitfire wing platform :a suggestion -royal aeronautical society. Quite interesting, although to be honest I didn’t understand all of it.
      Legend has it that R J Mitchell claimed that the wing was only that shape to allow enough space for the machine guns. Reading the above article l don’t think that’s true.

      • [According to Leo McKinstry – Spitfire; portrait of a legend — good read, recommend it.]

        Nah, it wasn’t shaped specifically to allow the guns in. The wheel wells were located within the wings as well and these would be deeper than machine guns. They did have issues with vibrations (IIRC) and had massive problems getting the cannons installed later.

        The idea was elliptical load distribution as alluded to upstairs.

        On the winglets – I’ve done transonic aero, but not around the wingtip region so this isn’t gospel – but as far as I knew, the winglet allows you to greater load the outer regions of the wing while mitigating much of the induced drag you’d get as a result. That is, you can move away from the idealised elliptical load distribution without suffering the drawbacks.

        See example here:

        So you’ve a larger “effective” (horrible term but it’ll do) wing area for the same induced drag. Of course, with FBW controlling the aileron position through cruise, there are other means of adjusting spanwise lift distribution to minimise drag.

        • Thanks for that, still not sure I totally understand. I’ll definitely give the book a go.

  2. Looks like they have made their homework. Similar solution to Bombardier: Aluminum body, carbon wings, full FBW and GTF.
    I assume production cost will be comparable with Airbus and Boeing, labor being much cheaper in Russia but production process probably less efficient.
    Performance will probably surpass A320 and 737 due to better aerodynamics and lower empty weight so the key questions about successfully exporting the MC-21 will be if they can manage all the sales and service aspects outside of Russia.
    Maybe Boeing should just buy the plans of the MC-21 or license them for the 737 successor.

    • “Maybe Boeing should just buy the plans of the MC-21 or license them for the 737 successor.”

      — Best idea of the day! License production? Joint production? Why not? The only missing ingredient is political change in Russia to bring better relations with the West. More inconceivable things have happened.

      I have much more faith in the MC-21 than in the Comac 919.

      • Why would the licensed production , if it happened, go to Boeing

        Im thinking Embraer would be a better bet, that way they have a ‘family’ plus the existing worldwide technical support to draw on. They would be the ones to want to take on Airbus -Boeing duopoly and Im sure airlines would see that too.

      • That’s because the Comac will just be a Chinese branded plane that was developed mainly by Russia with PR mainly given to China. A Korean company does the cargo door for the A350 I heard. So what? Aviation innovation will die off if this trend continues.

  3. Looks like a good aircraft but I think Bombardier was smarter not to attac the duopoly in the center of its business.

    • Quite the opposite, me thinks: This is exactly what you have to do to become a serious contender: Build the best possible aircraft in a certain class (here: full size single isle) and hit the top dogs on the nose with it.
      That is just what Airbus did with the A300 against the DC-10 and L-1011 and later with the A320 against the 737.
      How can you become a champion if you avoid the competition?
      The C-Series is a similarly bold move, attacking the A319, 737-700 at its weaknesses and topping the very successful E195/190. As we have seen Boeing did not like to loose that part of the market, as it weakens their position of the 737 line quite badly because they had already lost the -900 market to the A321. Not the center of their business, well…

      • I predict that Boeing and Airbus will murder both these contenders as toddlers. Vladimir is already destroying mc21, market still has to decide on whether it needs a lot of c series size planes. If I’m wrong they will of seriously dropped the ball.

        • You mean as in “Boeing murdered the A300 and later the A320”?
          They would surely love to do that if only they could. Just like the C-Series. Besides, you should take a closer look at the MC-21 before you rush into such comments – that bird is not nearly the size of the C-series, but even larger than the A320. Just take a look here, if it is not too much trouble for you:
          We have seen this so often in history when a company is enjoying a cash-cow just too long. Cash-cow means you have a fully ripened product that is very profitable to may go under any time soon at it is normally not state of the art and the competition will do everything to take a chunk out of it.
          While Boeing was sitting on their hands, everyone else got very busy and the results are now coming in. These products will eat away from the 737 top, bottom, right and left and destroy the 737 market position in a surprisingly short time.

          • Yes I know how big an mc21 is,I just don’t believe Ab &B are going to throw away the advantages of scale and product support that they have. I realise that I’m in a club of one as far as leeham comments are concerned (possibly andy agrees with me).I believe Airbus and certainly Boeing are well on the way to responding
            Remember when the 787 started it was called 767x.

          • But Grubbie, that is exactly the point: Boeing is not responding, and what is worse, they can’t! The 737 is at its very end of useful development and there is nothing in the pipeline except maybe some market and feasibility studies. Developing the 737 successor will take not less than 5 years.
            One of the biggest problems Boeing is facing is that they will need to build a completely new production, and here size is not an asset but a burden.
            The same is basically true for Airbus, except that the A320 line might still have one more generation in them by putting a carbon wing on them. FBW, container cargo hold and space for modern engines are already on board.

          • @ Gundolf, Grubbie

            I agree with you both, insomuch as creating a high capacity supply chain to back up any newly developed NB will take considerable time even if it can be achieved at all against the might of the A/B duo. At the same stage all the wannabes have a chance to chip away at the dominance on a regional perspective and given the massive support offered in Russia and China and maybe Canada and Japan to get these projects off the ground (similar to Germany’s largesse with Airbus) they can have a significant impact on the market in the longer term. What exactly can A or B do significantly different or better to stop it happening on a regional basis?

          • Nada, that’s what they can do.
            You might even look at the whole picture from an altogether different perspective: Before the collapse they had a pretty good range of passenger planes made in the Soviet Union. Only afterwards B and A became the duopoly. If you see it from that side it is only quite normal that Russia comes back to the market with some planes.
            Besides, Russia is the largest country on our planet, so planes (and helicopters) have always been very important there and many different types were developed and built.
            The more I think about it the more I like the idea of some fresh competition.
            With all the experience Russia has in designing and building planes I expect they will do a good job with the MC-21. The Superjet project didn’t go to bad already and gives them something to build up on.

          • “Before the collapse they had a pretty good range of passenger planes made in the Soviet Union.” ?

            I was working on privatisation in Eastern Europe post-1989. One of the questions was what to do with all the Eastern Bloc state airlines and their [Soviet] airliner fleets. Someone [it might even have been Leeham] modelled a cost & performance comparison of a 180-PAX flight from Berlin Schoenefeld to Moscow Sheremetyevo, in a B737 and in its Soviet counterpart, an Ilyushin. A very typical COMECON stage.

            Net result: the two planes arrived at the same time. But the Ilyushin burnt twice as much fuel, and required EIGHT TIMES as many MRO hours afterwards. Conclusion: scrap the lot, and start over.

  4. It will have a wide aisle and the planned -400 will be 2 meters larger than even the A321.

    With its spacey cabin, container capability and future growth potential (high gear, low wing loading) a good MoM- ski..

  5. It remains to be seen if they can keep politics out of the production line. They are under political pressure to replace western systems with Russian ones, due to ruble concerns, but that dog won´t hunt (credit TW) on the export market.

  6. Personally I have always had the highest regard for the Russian aircraft industry. At one time I flew Tu134 and 154 and Il 62 on a regular basis and the odd Yak and Ant aircraft. At the time the jets were designed from a fundamentally different perspective to western aircraft with much more emphasis on ability to fly into low category airports. I have also seen the trouble that the industry fell into with the complete dislocation of the design and production process.

    I am delighted to see the moderate success of the superjet and look forward to the mc21. What I would like to know is do they operate within the same company or are they separate? Given the difficult birth and low production rate of the superjet having a wholly separate operation going through the same growing pains of a ramp up seems a bit foolish.

  7. I have always had the highest regard for the Russian aircraft industry. I could be world class MoM aircraft, unfortunately this specific design lacks imagination. The plane has a transcontinental range, but 3+3 abreast is outdated concept dated back to the down of jet age (B707/DC8/VC10 or IL62). 2+2+2 or 2+3+2 are entirely different mater.

    There was a project called 7J7 with 3 different cross section and the block fuel per passenger was similar.

    • Balkan, increasing the diameter of the body does not only make the plane more heavy but also increases drag significantly. Both reduce performance in every aspect and increase fuel consumption. I don’t know what they have done in that study, but they have either pulled some bad tricks or made some very fundamental mistakes.
      On the other side, by just adding some inches in width you can significantly improve passenger comfort and with the somewhat wieder isle improve boarding times. It also makes it possible to pass a trolley during service, if you are not too heavy. The slightly wider body also allows to stretch it a little more, which is why I think a MC-21-500 might become a true 757 replacement.
      @dukeofurl: Cooperation with Embraer would in fact be a fascinating idea. Especially if you think about service and sales. A completion center in Brazil would surely be feasible. Maybe they could simply use the An-124 to ship the body segments and wings… I have no idea though about the relationship between Brazil and Russia.

      • Pls, look on the link with specification of 7J7…. they try to offset the heavier frame (4 tones OWE increased) and more drag (diameter increased from 4.16 to 4.77m) for carrying 10 more passenger….
        By the way… they also study IAE SuperFan variant…

        • Sure, I have seen that, but I don’t believe it. The weight and drag penalty is much bigger than what could be compensated with 10 more Pax.
          I forgot to mention that the larger plane is also more expensive.
          Finding the perfect solution for the body size is extremely important as every 1% of fuel efficiency can make of break a plane. Just look at the 767 vs. A300 / A330: the 767 has a 2-3-2 seating while the Airbuses have 2-4-2.
          2-2-2 and 2-3-2 are simply not efficient. For 6 abreast you have to stick to 3-3, then there is a big black hole for 7 abreast and then you go to 8 or 9 abreast for the twin isles.

      • I don’t see many Russians in here, so as the one – perhaps, I can be useful. What you need to know about MC-21 is that it was developed by UAC (United Aircraft Corporation) – which unites Ilyushin, Tupolev, Yakovlev, Sukhoi and MIG. So. it’s a baby of BIG company with a HUGE experiense.The plant in Irkutsk which is planned to be main assembling site for MC-21, makes Yak-130 trainer fighters, SU-30SM fighters as well and also involved into production chain of Airbus A320.
        And here we are facing the first problem: being very modern plant, it’s limited to produce only 6 MC-21’s a month. Which means Airbus and Boeing may sleep quiet.
        Knowing that UAC signed an agreement with Brazil (as you advised) to localize MC-21 there. So, Embraer is planned to be a sales and service partner of UAC in Latin America.
        Russia and Brazil are partners in BRICS organization – if someone unaware (B for Brazil, R for Russia. Also includes India, China and South Africa)
        Meanwhile, in other sides of the earth, UAC is trying to cooperate with Bombardier. As you may know CSeries fits right in between Superjet100 and MC-21 lineups. Flight desks of CSeries and MC-21 are identical. (Sukhoi Superjet will get the same cabin in 2020 together with new engines). Chinese Comac C919 shares same cabin too.
        Pratt&Whitney engines are used by both CSeries and MC-21

        Few words about body diameter and bad trics. No bad trics or fundamental mistakes (i hope). Just improved aerodynamics and new materials. As a sample – carbon wings of MC-21 are very lightweight, because they are made of one piece. Boeing and Airbus simply do not have such a technology. The reverse side – this technology was tested only on 5-th gen fighters so far. Not on civilian aircrafts. Russians are risky guys!

  8. Grubbie: “I believe Airbus and certainly Boeing are well on the way to responding Remember when the 787 started it was called 767x.”

    That’s what I see happening as well. Kicking and screaming Boeing is pushed towards a costly but necessary NSA. Admitting so would have brutal effects on 737 prospects/order books and stock value/ salaries. So they’re keeping up MAX appearances as long as possible, while, hopefully, preparing a plan B.

    • Maybe thinking about a plan B, but surely they aren’t at work yet. Boeing is most probably way too busy with the development of the 777X and 737Max in engineering than to seriously work on a new single isle jet.
      Besides the capacities there is also the very difficult question about the concepts. As they have learned from the 787 is can get very messy when you try to revolutionize everything in one rush. On the other hand you can not jump too short, because the competition (which is 1 step ahead right now) might also make a move soon.
      The 797 could be a larger C-series resp. MC-21 copy: Al-Li body, CFRP wings, FBW, container capable. That would be a rather safe way to go. Airbus would be forced to put a CFRP wing on the A320, but the 797 might be just a little overall.
      But I think we are heading towards an entirely new technology race already: Electric engines powered by, what, fuel cells maybe, batteries involved surely, piston engines maybe,…
      Maybe that is the actual strategy at Boeing: Try to keep the 737 alive until a hybrid plane can be developed and then leapfrog the competition.

  9. Leeham: than you for opening up the article on the MC-21. I look forward to the rest of them.

    this definitely is what is needed, will see if they can pull it off.

    Not just a product, its the support as well a production capability.

    I don’t see anyone trusting Russia at this point.

  10. 7 Years ago I took this shot of the MS21-400. Lack of alternative good graphics on this large subtype made this photo go everywhere in publications. The guy in the back contacted me over it (positively)..

    Meanwhile testing of the PD-14 “LEAPski” is progressing. What if this engine is pretty good & costs less? The Russian industry are no dummies and the engine is the base for several new engine families.

    Maybe the Chinese will have a look, as well as operators in former USSR, Indonesia, Mexico, South America etc.

    What if China want to order 300 NEO’s, but with his engine? Would be a sixth engine type on the A320..

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