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New, Russian Competition for the MAX and the Airbus A320 Is Here

New, Russian Competition for the MAX and the Airbus A320 Is Here
Jonathan DeLise

Earlier this week at the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon at Zhukovsky Airport in Moscow, Russia, the United Aircraft Corporation’s subsidiary Irkut Corporation unveiled its newest model, the MC-21.

Although the MC-21’s maiden flight was in 2017, as a direct consequence of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the United States imposed sanctions on access to various aircraft parts including the wings and engines. Thus, it was only this week that Rostec, the Russian government-owned aerospace, and defense conglomerate that recently took ownership of the United Aircraft Corporation, decided to introduce to the public the MC-21.

The two main aircraft MC-21 aircraft types are the larger MC-21-300, designed for 163 to 211 passengers, with a range of 6, 000 km. (~3728 mi.), and the MC-21-200, capable of seating at least 132-165 passengers, with a range of 6, 400 km. (~3977 mi.). Indeed, from Moscow, this could translate as nonstop service to all European capitals, and major cities in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of East and South Asia.

The MC-21’s existence is to explicitly compete with the Boeing 737-800MAX and the Airbus A320. However, in spite of the Boeing 737-800MAX’s pair of deadly crashes in October 2018 and March of this year, potential international customers of the new Russian model are also leery, as its civilian predecessor, the Sukhoi Superjet, has had a dubious history as well. Since the Sukhoi Superjet had so few buyers, even when minor issues manifest in the aircraft, it had not even been worth investing in continuous maintenance.

That said, target markets include Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, although Russian airliners will make up the bulk of the interest. Irkut Corporation expects to produce no less than 72 planes annually and plans to deliver the first order to Aeroflot in 2021.

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