Russia’s Irkut Aviation Plant has completed assembly of the second MC-21 narrowbody and on March 25 sent it from its production hall to the company’s flight test department in Irkutsk, Russia. According to Irkut, it took into account test results gleaned from the first aircraft during the production of its newest jet, bringing the program closer to final quality standards.
"The completion of the second aircraft assembly is an important stage in the implementation of the MC-21 program,” said Russian minister of industry and trade Denis Manturov. “Entering of new machines this year to flight testing will solve the key tasks of the project: to complete the certification of MC-21 in a timely manner, to launch mass production and to [deliver] the first airliners to the customer.”
Plans call for flight testing to involve four airplanes, said Irkut. The plant has now fully assembled the fuselage of the third MC-21 and has begun assembling components of the fourth example. Suppliers continue to manufacture parts and subassemblies for what Irkut calls the endurance aircraft, while the first MC-21 undergoes flight testing at the Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky, just outside Moscow. Meanwhile, engineers perform static testing on another airframe at the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), also located in Zhukovsky.
Irkut plans for the program to accrue a total of 1,000 flights, followed by Russian certification in mid-2019 and EASA certification in mid-2020.
Powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1400G geared turbofans, the MC-21 features the widest fuselage of any narrowbody on the market, promising cabin comfort for full-service airlines and cost advantages for low-fare carriers, according to Irkut and parent company United Aircraft (UAC). The MC-21’s list price of $91 million suggests a 15-percent lower acquisition cost than that of the current A320.
Irkut claims that either the PW1400G or a Russian engine alternative—namely, the Aviadvigatel PD-14 undergoing testing aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 flying testbed—will produce a 15-percent operating cost advantage over the current Airbus A320. Apart from the engines, the MC-21’s most radical advance centers on its carbon-fiber wings, which take the airplane’s composite content to 30 percent. AeroComposit in Ulyanovsk, Russia, builds the wings using an out-of-autoclave resin transfer infusion process never before tried on a commercial aircraft. Both Airbus and Boeing use a more expensive process that requires an autoclave to cure their composite wings on the A350 and 787, respectively. Both of the MC-21’s chief competitors—the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320–use metal wings. Bombardier uses an in-autoclave resin transfer infusion process to manufacture C Series wings.