Monday, May 15, 2017

Irkut MC-21 readies for first flight

The first prototype of the new generation Russian civilian passenger jet MC-21 has commenced taxi trials ahead of first flight, which is expected shortly.

Major aircraft subsystems of the aircraft including the auxiliary power systems, are undergoing final testing before being cleared for first flight from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant.

The prototype MC-21-300 designated 0001 is the first of four aircraft destined for flight and ground testing. The prototype 0002 will be used to carry out ground tests by TSaGI, while the 0003 and 0004, which are in final assembly, will join later for flight testing.

The aircraft is Russian aviation industry's first clean sheet design in the single aisle segment in decades and will compete to break the duopoly of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 along with the Chinese COMAC C919, which completed maiden flight recently.

Being an clean sheet design, the Irkut was able to respond to the new market demand for increased seating capacity in the single aisle segment.

The MC-21-300 is 42.2 m long and have a wingspan of 35.9 m. The fuselage cross section is 4.06 m and the cabin has a width of 3.81 m.

The aircraft is 2.8 m longer than the Boeing's 737 MAX and 4.7 m longer than the Airbus A320, allowing a 180 passenger capacity in a two class layout or 211 in a single class layout, while its rivals, which are optimized for 150-160 seats had to cram the cabin to add more seats.

One of the major feature that makes the MC-21 apart from its rivals is the new high aspect ratio composite wing. Along with reducing weight compared to the metallic wings, contributing to fuel efficiency, the composite wing is made inside a oven rather than in a autoclave, a key technique to reduce production cost of the aircraft.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that during static load testing, the MC-21's composite wing failed at 90 % of the ultimate load. Even though the wing demonstrated sufficient strength required to commence flight testing, Irkut said it will further reinforce the wing structure.

Another feature is the lower cabin pressurization that Irkut aims to achieve in the MC-21. Compared to 8000 ft in 737 and A320, Irkut has designed the MC-21's metallic fuselage to match 6000 ft pressurization, first introduced in the airline industry by Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which reduce passenger fatigue.

The advanced cockpit of the MC-21 will be equipped with a industry first active side stick controllers, that provide tactile feed back to the pilot.

The aircraft is also lighter than its rivals despite seating 30 more. The maximum take off weight (MTOW) of MC-21-300 is 79,250 kg and can carry a maximum payload of 22,600 kg.

With two engine options, either the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G geared turbofan engines or the Russian PD-14 engine can be selected to power the aircraft. As the PD-14 is under flight testing, initially the PW GTF powered aircraft will only be available.

With its advanced planetary gear system that allow the engine core and the fan to run at their respective optimum speeds, the P&W GTF series are the engine of choice for new generation jetliners like the Airbus A320neo, Bombrardier CSeries, Mitsubishi MRJ and Embraer E-jet E2 family aircraft, contributing a major share of their fuel efficiency.

Irkut claims the MC-21 can fly 600 km more than its competitors with its 6000 km range. The MC-21 family also include the MC-21-200 which can seat from 132 to 165 passengers.