Russian aircraft manufacturer Irkut signed a memorandum of understanding with Ilyushin Finance at Farnborough for the sale of 50 MC-21 airliners, Irkut’s first announced orders, albeit MOUs. MOUs don’t strictly count until they become firm orders backed by substantial deposits, but it’s a start. Before the airshow, Irkut reported only interest from Russian and Western airlines.
Oleg Demchenko, Irkut president, told AIN that his company accepts that the MC-21 will have to go head-to-head with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, but insists that it will hold its own by offering improved passenger comfort and operating costs that will be 12 to 15 percent less than these rival single-aisle transports.
Indeed at the airshow, Irkut showed a mockup of the MC-21’s cabin that included the cockpit, a business-class cabin, a representative length of an economy cabin and a galley. The Russian manufacturer claims the maximum internal diameter of the MC-21 cabin is almost 144 inches, compared to the A320’s 139 inches and the 737’s 136 inches. It also maintains that the MC-21’s cabin design will raise passenger comfort in economy class, where the seating is six abreast, to “close to business-class level.” The mockup was built by a company in the U.S.
Irkut is offering the MC-21 in three capacities–150, 180 and 210 passengers–and expects to start cutting metal in 2012. First flight is planned for late 2014 and deliveries are expected to begin in 2016. Demchenko said the Russian government has allocated “several billion dollars” for the MC-21 program, enough funds to bring it successfully to completion.