Aeroflot says it ordered more than 300 'fully Russified' airliners. Take a look at the Irkut MC-21 jet the airline says will be its new flagship.

Aeroflot says it ordered more than 300 'fully Russified' airliners. Take a look at the Irkut MC-21 jet the airline says will be its new flagship.
MC-21.
MC-21.Arnold O. A. Pinto/Shutterstock
  • The Aeroflot Group has ordered 339 Russian jets, including the Tupelov Tu-214, the Sukhoi Superjet New, and the Irkut MC-21 from the Russian state-owned United Aircraft Company.

  • The $16 billion worth of homegrown planes represents Russia's desire to end its dependency on Western-built aircraft, but doubts remain it is up to the task.

  • The MC-21 will be Aeroflot's new "flagship" jet. The company says it can seat up to 211 passengers and fly over 3,700 miles.

Russia is desperate to end its reliance on Western-built technology.

Aeroflot Boeing 737.
An Aeroflot Boeing 737.Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

In September, Aeroflot Group, which is the parent company of Russian national airline Aeroflot, announced it had signed an agreement to buy 339 Russian-built planes from state-owned United Aircraft Corporation.

Aeroflot aircraft at JFK airport in New York City.
Aeroflot aircraft at JFK airport in New York City.Sorbia/Shutterstock

Source: Aeroflot

The $16 billion order includes 40 Tupolev Tu-214s...

Tu-214 aircraft.
Tu-214 aircraft.aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: Aeroflot, Aviacionline

…89 Sukhoi Superjet New (SSJ-New)…

Sukhoi Superjet New.
Sukhoi Superjet New fuselage.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Aeroflot

…and 210 Irkut MC-21s.

MC-21.
MC-21.Irkut

Source: Aeroflot

According to Aeroflot, the first two SSJ-New jets will be received in 2023, while the Tupolev Tu-214 and MC-21 will begin deliveries in 2024.

MC-21.
MC-21.Niccolo Bertoldi/Shutterestock

Source: Aeroflot

"The signing of this agreement clearly demonstrates to the whole world that Russia remains a great aviation power with huge potential and rich experience in the field of aircraft manufacturing, capable of producing reliable and modern aircraft," Aeroflot CEO Sergey Aleksandrovsky claimed.

SSJ-NEW.
SSJ-NEW fuselage.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Aeroflot

All aircraft will be delivered with “Russian-made on-board systems and components,” according to Aleksandrovsky.

MC-21.
MC-21 on the final assembly line.aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: Aeroflot

With the smallest number on order, the Tu-214 will be a “reliable support” aircraft, per Aeroflot. Meanwhile, the SSJ-New and the MC-21 comprise most of the order.

Transaero Airlines Tu-214.
Transaero Airlines Tu-214.Media_works/Shutterstock

Source: Aeroflot

The announcement comes as Aeroflot can no longer rely on the Airbus and Boeing planes that currently make up the vast majority of its fleet due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Delta and Aeroflot.
Delta and Aeroflot.Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock

Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot is stripping parts from working planes because of a spares shortage, report says

Russia is even struggling to get spare parts from the manufacturing giants and has resorted to "cannibalizing" grounded jets for supplies. So, now the airline must make the move it has avoided making for years.

An Aeroflot engine being checked by maintenance in Russia.
An Aeroflot engine being checked by maintenance in Russia.Denis Kabelev/Shutterstock

Russian airlines may soon resort to 'cannibalizing' planes and creating a 'Frankenstein fleet' to keep Western-built planes flying

Currently, Aeroflot's fleet consists of 178 Boeing and Airbus jets and just four Sukhoi Superjet 100s (SSJ-100).

Aeroflot.
Aeroflot Sukhoi 100s.Media_works/Shutterstock

"Historical changes are coming to civil aviation," Sergey Chemezov, director general of Rostec State Corporation, said. "Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which are unlikely to ever be delivered to Russia again, will be replaced by Russian-made passenger aircraft."

Sukhoi Superjet 100.
SSJ-100.Fasttailwind/Shutterstock

Source: Aeroflot

The biggest push for Russian planes is to re-engineer them with local parts, like the SSJ-100 being reimagined as the SSJ-New that state officials say will be equipped with a Russian engine instead of the Franco-Russian one on its predecessor.

SSJ-New.
Sukhoi Superjet New.United Aviation Corporation

The MC-21, which hopes to compete with airliners like the 737 MAX and the A320neo, is also stripping its Western parts in favor of homegrown technology, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters in April.

Boeing 737 MAX 7.
Boeing 737 MAX jets.Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Aviation International News, Delta just ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10 jets to upgrade its narrowbody fleet. Take a look inside one of the test planes.

Borisov said the MC-21 is dropping the American-made Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engine for the Russian-built Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine made by the state-owned United Engine Corporation (UEC).

Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine.
Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Aviation International News

"Earlier, the industry promised the aircraft with two engine options," Borisov said in April. "Now, we are launching the type into serial production with the PD-14 only."

First MC-21 flight with Russian engine.
First MC-21 flight with Russian engine.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Aviation International News

The MC-21 will undergo new testing with the PD-14 engine for certification, which Rostec says is "proceeding according to plan."

MC-21.
MC-21.Irkut

Source: FlightGlobal

Also developed is a new carbon fiber wing, dubbed "black wing" because of the color. The MC-21 took its first flight with the new Russian-made wing in December 2021.

MC-21's new "black wing."
MC-21's new "black wing."United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Rostec State Corporation

Composite materials on wings are uncommon on narrowbody jets, but Rostec claims the MC-21 is the "first domestic, as well as the first in the world in its class, aircraft with a composite wing."

First flight with new wing.
First flight with new wing.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Rostec State Corporation

Avionics and other systems on the MC-21 will also be replaced with homegrown equipment to make it "fully Russified," Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov claimed at the Eastern Economic Forum in early September.

MC-21.
MC-21.Alexander Utkin/Rostec

Source: Aerotime

While Aeroflot and UAC hope for a 2024 delivery of the MC-21, which has been in production since 2006, the company had already pushed expected deliveries to 2025.

Second MC-21 flight test.
Second MC-21 flight test.United Aviation Corporation

Source: Rostec State Corporation, Aviacionline

But, that timeline could be pushed even further as the company revamps the plane, drops an engine source, and replaces Western components — no simple task.

MC-21.
MC-21.Irkut

"It needs to be reinvented and that's going to take a bunch of years," aviation analyst at AeroDynamic, Richard Aboulafia, told Fortune in March. "It'll go from an interesting plane to a completely hopeless one."

MC-21.
Aviadvigatel PD-14.Irkut

Source: Fortune

Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that "it's unlikely the standard will be as good as a Western-built aircraft, unfortunately."

MS-21 at the compartment assembly station.
MS-21 at the compartment assembly station.Irkut

"Russian and Soviet-built planes are rarely bought by Western airlines because they simply don't perform as well as their operating economics aren't as good," he explained.

JetBlue A321neo.
JetBlue is a major customer for Airbus.Business Wire

Despite the skepticism from some experts and nations, Harteveldt said if Russia sees the plane as essential for its airlines and aviation industry, as well as for gaining some prestige, then "they will take the steps necessary to ensure the MC-21 gets built."

MC-21.
MC-21.Irkut

Though, he said it is possible that the jet could be an exception "that changes the track record" of Russian-built planes.

The fuselage panel of the MS-21 aircraft at the station of the new assembly line.
The fuselage panel of the MS-21 aircraft at the station of the new assembly line.Irkut

Moreover, if Western nations can work out their political differences, then the MC-21 could use the Pratt & Whitney engine, and "its fortunes could improve, but it will be difficult."

MS-21 landing at the airport.
MS-21 landing at the airportIrkut

When and if the MC-21 eventually enters service, Aeroflot said it would be the "flagship" of the company's fleet. Here's a closer look at the Russian-built jet.

MC-21.
MC-21.Rostec

Source: Aeroflot

The MC-21 is a medium-haul plane that first took flight in 2017 and is "focused on the most mass-market segment in passenger transportation."

First MC-21 flight.
First MC-21 flight.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut, Aeroflot

With a wingspan of 118 feet, the plane has a range of 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles), which still lags behind the 737 MAX family and A320neo.

VivaAerobus Airbus A320neo
A VivaAerobus Airbus A320neo.AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Source: Irkut

The jet is built to carry between 163 and 211 passengers.

MC-21 cabin concept drawing.
MC-21 cabin concept drawing.United Aviation Corporation

A 163-passenger layout would allow for two classes, including 16 in business and 147 in economy…

Business class loungers.
Business class loungers concept drawing.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

…while the maximum capacity configuration would be all-economy offering 28-29 inches of pitch.

Economy.
Economy seats concept drawing.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

According to Irkut, the plane has several advantages that make it favorable for legacy and low-cost airlines, like its 30% share of composite materials, which are exclusively Russian-built…

Inside cabin of MC-21.
Inside the cabin of MC-21.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

…its wings and engines that purportedly improve performance and decrease CO2 and noise emissions…

MC-21.
MC-21.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

...its large galley areas...

Galley areas on MC-21.
Galley areas on MC-21.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

...its advanced cockpit technologies...

MC-21 cockpit.
MC-21 cockpit.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

…and its big cabin that Irkut claims to be the largest in its class, which boasts more passenger personal space and luggage storage, and huge windows.

MC-21 overhead bin.
MC-21 overhead bin.United Aircraft Corporation

Source: Irkut

So far, the plane is undergoing flight testing but had one incident in January 2021 when the jet slid off the runway when landing in snowy conditions.

MC-21's new "black wing."
MC-21 (not the incident aircraft).United Aircraft Corporation

Source: FlightGlobal, UAC

With the ongoing delays in production and lack of history proving the plane is a reliable alternative to the best-selling Airbus and Boeing jets, Irkut may struggle to find interest in the MC-21.

Boeing 737 MAX 10.
While still under production, the Boeing 737 MAX 10 has already garnered orders from airlines like Delta and Qatar.Taylor Rains/Insider

Qatar just confirmed an order for 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets amid its dispute with Airbus over paint issues

So far, only Russian carriers have ordered the plane, with Azerbaijan Airlines being the sole foreign customer.

Azerbaijan Airlines.
An Azerbaijan Airlines 787.Karolis Kavolelis/Shutterstock

Source: FlightGlobal

With a total of 175 firm orders, the MC-21 is well behind the new Chinese-built narrowbody airline, the Cormac C919, which has amassed over 800 orders.

Comac C919.
Comac C919.Shi Yuge/VCG via Getty Images

Meet the Comac C919, the first mainline airliner made by a Chinese company that could begin deliveries this year

Despite the challenges, Chemezov claims to be confident in the MC-21, saying, "it is the pride of our aircraft industry, it boasts innovative design solutions that, I am sure, will be appreciated by both pilots and passengers."

MC-21.
MC-21.Arnold O. A. Pinto/Shutterstock

Source: Aeroflot

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