Russia’s challenger to 737 and A320 makes first brief flight

The MS-21, which is also often referred to using the Cyrillic alphabet as MC-21, is Russia’s first post-Soviet airliner and represents a determined effort to regain the country’s standing as a center of aerospace engineering prowess.

Less than a month after China’s national aerospace champion offered its challenge to Airbus and Boeing with the first flight of a 737-sized airliner, Russia entered the fray Sunday when jetmaker Irkut flew the MS-21 for the first time.

The MS-21, which is also often referred to using the Cyrillic alphabet as MC-21, is Russia’s first post-Soviet airliner and represents a determined effort to regain the country’s standing as a center of aerospace engineering prowess.

It features a carbon fiber reinforced plastic wing and tail, as well as the latest Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines, similar to those on the Airbus A320 and Bombardier CSeries jets.

The flight was not announced in advance. Irkut said in a statement that the larger of two proposed variants, the MS-21-300, successfully completed its flight in Irkutsk, Siberia, flying for just 30 minutes, reaching an altitude of 3,300 feet and a speed of 186 miles per hour.

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The shortness of the flight and the relatively low speed and altitude could indicate some issue arose to cut the test flight short, but in its statement Irkut insisted all was normal.

“During the flight a simulated landing approach was performed, followed by a flight over the runway, climbing and turning,” Irkut said. “This technique is typical for the maiden flight of new types of aircraft.”

Larger yet lighter

The Russian jet enters the same market as the Chinese C919, which had its debut flight in Shanghai on May 4.

Designed to carry 163 to 211 passengers, the MS-21-300 — like the C919 — is aimed at the heart of the single-aisle market, today dominated by the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737-800.

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