Assessing the MC-21 future

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Feb. 9, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Russia’s Irkut designed a mainline jet to compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families that, from a passenger experience

Irkut MC-21 at roll-out. Photo via Google images.

viewpoint, is the best in class.

The MC-21 has a wider fuselage than the A320 (which is wider than the 737). Seats and the aisle are the widest in the class. The overhead bin space is plentiful.

But the airplane is hampered by its environment: Russia itself.

  • EIS planned for next year, but first flight hasn’t happened yet.
  • Few orders, small customer base.
  • Russia itself presents an overhang to the MC-21 program.
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Assessing the future of COMAC programs

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Feb. 6, 2017, © Leeham Co.: China’s effort to become a viable commercial aerospace alternative was filled with rocky fits and starts for its two signature airliner programs, the AVIC ARJ-21 and the COMAC C919.

COMAC, a spin off from AVIC and yet another government-controlled entity, is already casting eyes on a 250-seat, twin-aisle design, the C929—ostensibly in a joint venture with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp.

The ARJ-21 regional jet finally entered service after delays of eight years. The C919 target EIS is now 2019, six years after the original date. The first flight hasn’t even taken place.

Chinese officials set a target EIS for the C929 of 2026.

A rough road remains ahead for each program.

  • Exceedingly slow delivery ramp up for the ARJ-21.
  • First flight of the C919 planned this year.
  • Wide-body C929 will challenge the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Turbofan developments in 2017

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 06, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Before we finish of our series on airliner turbofan technology, let’s spend this Corner on what will happen on the airliner engine front during 2017.

While there is no totally new engine that comes into the market during 2017 there are a number of new variants of existing engine families that will be introduced.

Figure 1. GasTurb principal representation of a three shaft turbofan like our reference Rolls-Royce Trent XWB. Source: GasTurb.


If we start with the engines for regional/single aisle aircraft and then climb the thrust scale, we will cover the engines in climbing thrust class.

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US, EU ignore Chinese, Russian subsidies

Nov. 15, 2016, © Leeham Co.: Government subsidies to commercial aircraft companies appear to be increasing despite the 12-year disputes before the World Trade Organization between Europe and the US over Airbus and Boeing aid.

Yet the US and Europeans appear to be doing little to try and curb the subsidies to new competitors.

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Bjorn’s Corner: The Engine challenge


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

October 21, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In our Corners on East bloc aeronautical industries, we could see that the hardest part to master in a new civilian airliner is the engine.

Both new airliners from Russia and China (Irkut MC-21 and COMAC C919) start their lives with Western engines.

Why is this so? What are the challenges that make engines harder to create than aircraft?


LEAP-1C which will be standard engine on COMAC C919. Source: COMAC.

We will spend several Corners on the main reasons that airliner engines are harder to do than aircraft. Read more

From zero to 10,000 in 50 years; can COMAC duplicate this achievement?

By Bjorn Fehrm

October 19, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Airbus delivered its 10,000 aircraft last week (Figure 1), an A350-900 delivered to Singapore Airlines.

Delivering the 10,000 aircraft after 50 years of start of project is impressive, especially as the competition, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), the late McDonnell Douglas Corp and Lockheed Co, fought Airbus every step of the way.

Figure 1. Airbus 10,000th aircraft for Singapore Airlines. Source: Airbus.

We have a new player starting its 50 years, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, COMAC. It’s on its eighth year and the competitions’ sentiments are: “It will take long before they can compete, decades!”

Let’s compare with the rise of Airbus and see what can be learned. Will COMAC deliver its 10,000th aircraft in 50 years? Or in a shorter time? Read more

Bjorn’s Corner; The Chinese civil aircraft industry

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm.

September 30, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In our Corners on East bloc aeronautical industries, we will now look at the Chinese civil aircraft industry.

The Chinese aero industry has similarities with the Russian industry in its overall structure. From the start of the industry in the 1950s, it was structured after the Soviet model of research institutes, design bureaus and production companies.

The difference to the Soviet Union was that its own Chinese aircraft designs only started in the 1970s. Before that, the industry built Soviet designs on license and then modified versions of licensed designs.

The first own aircraft designs were presented in the 1980s with a focus on military designs for the first 20 years. Read more

Russian-Chinese wide-body: Program responsibilities

By Bjorn Fehrm

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September 29, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: We will now finish our series about the Russian-Chinese wide-body with looking at who will have what role in the program.

Russian-Chinese widebody

Figure 1. Concept for new wide-body airliner. Source: United Aircraft.

As we described in the initial article, “Background and outlook,” Russia and China have vastly different competencies when it comes to making a state of the art wide-body aircraft.

Russia has made airliners since the 1930s, including wide-body jets. China did not design its own jet aircraft (military or civil) until the mid-1980s. Most of the aircraft produced still today in China have their origin in Russian designs.

At the same time, we saw in the article about the market demand for the aircraft that the Chinese market is 90% of the home market. This makes for China demanding important parts of the aircraft’s production, and China has the money to invest in production facilities.

All this will influence how different parts of the project will be shared between Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).


  • Russia and China enter the wide-body project with widely different knowledge bases.
  • Russia has long time knowledge on how to develop and produce aircraft and their engines.
  • China on the other hand has the market for the aircraft.
  • China also know a lot about serial production and have money to invest. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner; The Russian civil aircraft engine companies


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

September 23, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In our Corners on East bloc aeronautical industries, we now look at the main Russian civil aircraft engine companies. As with the aircraft side, there is one overall Russian engine company since 2008, United Engine Corporation (UEC), Figure 1.

This is a state-owned holding which incorporates 80%of the gas turbine engine companies from the Soviet times, employing 80,000 people.

The aim is to coordinate and optimize Russia’s engineering and production resources around present and future gas turbine engines for Aeronautical, Naval and Stationary use.


Figure 1. Engine companies in United Engine Corporation. Source: UEC.

Soviet and Russian engines have historically been named after their chief designer in the design bureau. We will now describe the main entities in UEC that work with airliner engines. Read more

Russian-Chinese wide-body: Aircraft performance

By Bjorn Fehrm

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September 19, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In Part 4 of the article series, we put together an assumed complete Chinese-Russian wide-body aircraft with fuselage, wing, engines, etc. It is now time to understand what kind of performance that can be expected, given the data we have from the wide-body partners, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

Russian-Chinese widebody

Figure 1. Concept for new widebody airliner. Source: United Aircraft.

We will combine these data with the ones we have deduced as plausible to fill the gaps, given the time frame and technology level that UAC and COMAC intend to use.

Out will come a first estimate of what kind of performance such an aircraft can have in terms of efficiency and payload versus range capability.


  • We can use all the data we have gathered to make a first estimate of the efficiency of the Russian-Chinese wide-body.
  • We also have enough information to do a first payload-range diagram and to compare that with the diagram for Boeing’s 787-9.

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