We had the chance to meet recently with the team in charge of the Frigate Ecojet project, the private Russian initiative to develop a middle of the market commercial aircraft concept.
This is not the first time we covered this interesting aircraft, whose most characteristic feature is its elliptic fuselage, so this was an opportunity to learn about the course of this programme.
The most eye-catching, if superficial, novelty is, perhaps, the name change, from “Ecojet” to “Freejet”. However, some more structural changes have also been added to the project during the last year.
The number of engines has been increased from two to four, a rather surprising change at a time when twin-engines seem to be pushing four-engined jets out of business in all categories where they are in direct competition.
Maximum take-off weight has also increased from 129.9t to 140.4t. and Operating Empty Weight (OEW) from 77.57t to 84.86t.
The design team expects to compensate some of the perceived disadvantages with some added positives, such as more thrust and lower noise thanks to a change in the shape and position of flaps. It also expects more internal functions to be driven by electricity.
When it comes to engines it is moving from the Russian-made PD-18R, PS-90A20, advanced turbofan engines to a choice of Russian and Western models: PD-14, PW1000G, and CFM LEAP, which would lead to commonality with other narrow body aircraft.
The Freejet programme managers are looking to build a network of industrial partners to move forward with the next stages of, admittedly challenging, project. So far they have partnered with three technology companies under the umbrella of the large Russian Rostec group as well as with Thyssen Krupp of Germany.