Russian Government Issues New Plan To Boost Airliner Output

 - July 14, 2021, 11:48 AM
The MC-21 will become the chief beneficiary of a massive investment in airliner development by the Russian government. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russia’s Ministry for Industry and Trade has arrived at a new $25 billion plan to place 735 domestically produced passenger aircraft with local and foreign operators in the 2021 to 2030 timeframe. Meant as part of Russia’s new edition of a national strategy for social and economic development, the document calls for the formation of an “internationally competitive product line for the [local] aviation industry.”

The federal budget would provide 244 billion roubles ($3.29 billion), about 80 billion roubles of which it already allocated under various governmental programs; plans call for the addition of the remainder starting in 2025. Another 1.59 trillion roubles would come from the National Prosperity Fund, approval of which would need to come from the Kremlin.

As opposed to previous plans, this one does not mention the Ilyushin 96 quadjet and it provides little clarity on the Sino-Russian CR929 widebody. Instead, it focuses on the MC-21 narrowbody jet and the SSJ100, both being the responsibility of Irkut, as well the Ilyushin Il-114 turboprop. The plan also includes five rotorcraft types, as well as the L-410 twin-turboprop commuter (produced under license) and the MLS-901 Baikal, a new single-engine utility turboprop meant for short routes.

The central idea centers on enabling local banks and their leasing arms to amass funds for the acquisition of 735 aircraft for subsequent placement with airlines, and to boost the workload of the Russian civil aviation industry to 80 to 90 percent of its nominal capacity. The plan calls for the allocation of the bulk of the funds (1 trillion roubles) to the MC-21 and Il-114 production from 2025 to 2030.

Starting in “late 2022,” MC-21 production would reach an annual rate of 36, for which Irkut reportedly possesses all the needed manufacturing equipment. The airframer would deliver 120 aircraft by 2028 and then proceed with an annual rate of 72 with the opening a second production line. It has set an EASA certification goal of December 2023, reflecting a considerable revision of much more aggressive plans at the outset.

Even though Irkut hopes to sell the MC-21 internationally, the type’s competitiveness on the open market has weakened due to the recent White House decisions not to grant permission for any new sales to Russia of Pratt & Whitney PW1400G turbofans and other vendor items, such as avionics, as well as carbon fiber and other raw materials for production of airframe parts made of composites. Russian companies offer substitutes, but their quality might compromise the overall performance of the twinjet. Unless the chill in relations between Moscow and Washington subsides, the situation will limit shipments of the MC-21 and other contemporary designs to close allies of Russia such as Belarus, and pariah states such as Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and Syria.