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Why Russia's New Irkut MC-21 Passenger Plane Leads the Pack (Video)

MS-21, the first long-range aircraft constructed in modern Russia, is more economical, comfortable and up to date than its American, European and Chinese competitors.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider


The other day, engineers of the American Boeing and European Airbus were probably taking Valium. Until now, practically all major orders in the world for airliners went to them. They view their rivals as fleas under a magnifying glass. But yesterday, one of them came out!

The Russian MC-21 plane that rolled into the limelight in Irkutsk turns out to be the most up-to-date, probably the world’s best. The US and Europe never thought they would have to compete with Russia in civil aviation.

Before we break out the champagne, let’s detail the occasion we have to celebrate.

The MC-21 cost quite a lot – 100 billion rubles. The government invested about 80 billion of them, while 20 billion came from the United Aircraft Corporation.

Was the new plane worth the cost?

Apparently it was. The MC-21 is the first long-range plane constructed in modern Russia (Su Super jet doesn’t count – its flight range is only half as long). Until now, the civil aircraft industry survived thanks to the Soviet backlog. But it outlived itself, which is why the question was simple – either we imported all our planes or we shot ahead.


We shot ahead. For the first time, with its brand-new plane, Russia has big ideas about competing directly with the heavyweights of the world aircraft industry, such as Airbus (Europe) and Boeing (the US); and with the rising "dragon" from China, the Comac company. These are the major world powers, capable of mass producing modern planes. Note that this league is beyond the power of separate European countries. They are included in it only jointly, with the "Eurokolkhoz" – the EU.

And now Russia can again take third or fourth place in the "super league".

However, its plane is not fourth but first in many respects.

Let’s compare.

MC-21’s main competitors in the world market are the Airbus A320, the Boeing 737 (MAX) and Chinese C919. Note that we aren’t putting today’s Airbus and Boeings but their improved versions with modernized engines in the competition to take place in the next few years. They are just being rolled out. As for the Chinese C919, it’s only starting to conquer the sky. This means that all the models are for the future use, like our MC-21.



MC-21 — 870 km/h.

Airbus A319 — 828 km/h.

Boeing 737 MAX — 842 km/h.

C919 — 834 km/h.


Passengers on Board

MC-21-300 – from 160 to 211 people.

Airbus A319 neo — to 156 people.

Boeing 737 MAX — from 126 to 220 people.

C919 — to 168 people.

Besides, the Irkutsk plane is lighter (based on the mass of the plane per each passenger) and more economical. That means it is more profitable to operate. Compared to the current Boeings and Airbuses, the operating costs of the MC-21 are 12-15% lower. And even comparing to their upcoming models "NEO" and "MAX", they are are 6-7% lower.

“Considering how many kilos of construction materials are equal to one passenger seat at similar configurations, the MS-21 looks better than its competitors,” according to the head of the analytical service of the AviaPort agency, Oleg Panteleev.  With similar engines, the MC-21 has a better aerodynamic wing, and it’s no coincidence that it is 20% more ecological than current competitors. In the West, where people are obsessed with clean air , this is a smashing argument!

But the most important thing is price. Our liner is cheaper.


MC-21 - $85 million.

Airbus A319 neo - from $97.5 tо $124,4 million.

Boeing 737 MAX – from $90.2 to $116.6 million.


The fuselage of the MC-21 is 10 cms larger, making seats and the passage between them wider: when a person takes his things from the overhead rack during deplaning, another one can move along behind his back. making for quicker boarding and deplaning,” according to Panteleev.

The MC-21 has 40% composite light materials, compared to the Tu-204 with only 14%). But the most important thing is that it has composite wings, which are lighter than Boeing’s and Airbus’s. The Chinese plane’s wings are still made of metal.

Initially, the MC-21 will be installed with imported engines by Pratt & Whitney, the PW1400G. But a brand new Russian engine of the current PD-14 generation is coming soon, produced in Perm!

This will be a totally Russian plane with domestic engines, wings and fuselage. It even has its own electronics. Of course, many microchips are imported, but they are combined with Russian know-how, which Western competitors do not have. For example, when the Airbus with Russian tourists crashed in Egypt, we learned that earlier the plane’s tail had made contact with the take-off runway. Well, this will never happen to the MC-21, whoever flies it. Russians have engineered systems that protect against such incidents.   


Of course we can’t push our competitors from their warm places just with drawings and first-class characteristics. The new Russian plane needs sales. And we have firm orders for 175 MC-21s, 100 options. The MC-21 will debut at Aeroflot, and foreign clients include Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Iran…

Foreign orders are likely to grow, and even rain down when the new Russian plane finally starts to fly and gains its European certification in 2018.  

Irkutsk is planning to produce 70 MC-21 planes per year during the first year. It needs to manufacture 1,000 to cover costs, which is actually not so many. According to experts, world demand for these planes is up to 20,000, and 5% of this pie would be an easy-to-digest slice for Russia.

The plane we presented to the world is better than Boeing and Airbus. And it’s much better than the Chinese C919. All that is left is to prove it in the sky.

KP put this question to prominent experts:

What’s next?

Alexander VOLKOV, space pilot of the USSR, Hero of the Soviet Union:

"Industry, manufacture. How many domestic machines do we have in small enterprises? We can produce equipment for bakeries, oil-mills and sewing-machines. We also can develop science – launching satellites to explore Earth and Mars."

Vladimir GUTENEV, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on industry:

"We receive less than our due in the space industry, since we have the best prices and low cost-pricing on placing payloads in orbit. We need to develop the mechanical engineering…"

Nika UDZILAURI, Commercial Director of Usolmash, Irkutsk:

"I agree that we should develop mechanical engineering, following the aircraft industry. If we don’t have our own competitive equipment, we will become a banana republic. Our plant has a production of 300-cube machines for ore reduction. Now the miners order them from abroad at a very high price."

Oleg SMIRNOV, Head of The Civil Aviation Committee of Rostransnadzor Community Council:

"The event in Irkutsk is the end of our aircraft industry’s nosedive. However, we still buy shoes and toothbrushes from abroad. The authorities should see about manufacturing either planes, or TVs, or tooth brushes."

Eugene NADORSHIN, Chief Economist of the Capital pension fund:

"We need to restore human capital assets. It will be difficult to move forward without them. We have a huge gap in our educational system. We need to have good scientists, professors and students, who go to university to gain knowledge, not just to receive a diploma, as often happens nowadays."

Anatoly VASSERMAN, famous intellectual:

"Designing and engineering automobiles. Our experts aren’t worst in the world. Many people liked the shape of the ‘Pobeda’ car. But we don’t have anything of our own – we’re just imitating the West."

Edgar ZAPASHNY, Director General of Moscow State Circus:

"People from all over the world should recognize our brands – clothing, mineral water. For example, we need to challenge Coke-Cola with our soft drinks like Tarkhun, Baikal, Kolokolchik!"

Vladimir VOLKOV, Head of the Republic of Mordovia:

"One of the key tasks set by President Putin is ensuring food security. By the way, today we export 60% of our products outside Russia. And these rates are growing."

Roman, listener of the radio Komsomolskaya Pravda (97,2 FM):

"I would develop agriculture, for example,  producing new harvesters."

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