While a few Russian carriers signed order agreements involving the Irkut MC-21 jetliner at Moscow’s MAKS 2017, the airliner’s airshow profile proved less than impressive, particularly given that the first operable prototype did not make an appearance. The airframer said the new narrowbody had performed nine flights before the show opening, and that it would not ferry it to Ramenskoye airport in Zhukovsky near Moscow for the next phase of testing until it completes another 30 flights from the site of the manufacturing plant in Irkutsk.
Irkut managed to clinch only one new direct contract with an airline at MAKS 2017. That happened on the second day, when Irkut president Oleg Demchenko and general director of Irkutsk-based Angara Airlines, Anatoly Yurtaev, signed a letter of intent covering three MC-21-300s. Speaking with AIN, Irkut marketing director Cyril Budaev acknowledged only limited success during MAKS, at which the company “insignificantly increased the number of commitments” from 175 aircraft when the show opened on July 18.
Another second-day deal covering MC-21-300s involved Yakutia-based AlRosa, which signed signed a letter of intent with Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) for three of the airplanes on 12-year lease terms starting in 2023.
The second-day signings followed deals on Day One involving Red Wings, which converted its initial agreement in 2013 to take MC-21-300s through IFC into a firm order for 16. The document signings took place in the presence of Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian government’s deputy chairman responsible for the military-industrial complex. Most of the jetliners will come equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engines, apart from four aircraft powered by the Russian-designed and made Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofans. United Engine Company exhibited an experimental example of that engine at MAKS 2017, hanging it on one of the four engine pylons attached to an Il-76LL testbed.
Separately, IFC signed a letter of intent with VIM-Avia under which the airline will take 15 MC-21-300s. The sides expect to covert the LoI into a firm order by the end of this year.
Red Wings and VIM-Avia are active in tourist destinations, prompting both to choose a high-density layout seating 211 passengers in an all-economy layout, IFC general manager Alexander Roubtsov told AIN. He further said that plans call for first placement of the MC-21 in late 2019 and the last of the 31 aircraft for the respective airlines in 2021. “Five years ago we awarded Irkut a firm order for fifty MC-21s,” he said. “We were the first customer to pay deposits for the slots on this new type. IFC hopes to sign firm agreements with airlines on placing of all fifty with them no later than early 2018. Then, we will consider buying more MC-21s from the manufacturer.”
The lessor has expressed no interest in the planned smaller MC-21-200. Instead, IFC has urged the manufacturer to speed development of an MC-21-400 stretch, seating up to 256 passengers. The lessor has already begun talking with Russian and European carriers about the MC-21-400, and plans to buy between 20 and 60 of the machines for subsequent placing with airlines.
Roubtsov further noted that, on the insistence of Rogozin and other members in the Russian government, IFC will help Irkut with fixing would-be teething problems with the MC-21 as it enters service. IFC has accumulated the necessary experience on previous aircraft projects, he said.
Finally, another Irkutsk-based airline, IrAero, publically declared its intent to take 10 MC-21s starting in 2019. Although it has not signed a contract of any kind, the airline plans to build a heated hangar at the Irkutsk airport for MRO work on the new jets, according to the airline’s general director, Yuri Lapin.