UPDATE – The Irkut MC-21 seems to have entered the final and very active phase of certification, which is still expected before the end of the year. Since August 28, the first prototype has been busy. performing numerous flight tests across Russia to gather performance data. Irkut MC-21 racks up flight hours for certification.
On August 28, prototype 001 with serial number 73051 flew from Perm to Mineralny Vody in the Kaukasus region and arrived there after a 2 hours 59 minutes flight. That same day, she flew a number of circuits no higher than 4.200 feet just northwest of Mineralny Vody airport on a flight that lasted 1 hour 17 minutes.
On the 29th, 001 departed Mineralny Vody for a 2 hours 58 minutes flight to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. After refueling and a quick break, the aircraft flew East to Nizhny Novgorod where she arrived after just 42 minutes.
Prototype 001 made a quick stop at Moscow Sheremetyevo on August 29. (SVO Airport)
73051 departed Nizhny Novgorod on August 30 for a flight up north to Murmansk, where she arrived after 2 hours and 37 minutes. From here, she did two test flights. The first took her over the Barents Sea and lasted 2 hours and 6 minutes while the second was a circuit around Murmansk Airport for which Flightradar hasn’t provided the flight duration.
After a little more than twelve hours on the ground in Murmansk, the first Irkut prototype took off at 8.44 am on August 31 and flew South to Mineralny Vody again on what looked like a flight to check her range. The aircraft touched down after 4 hours 12 minutes. The aircraft returned to Moscow Zhukovsky on September 1, where all test aircraft are based.
Meanwhile, prototype 003 73054 was also active on August 31 and did some tests at medium altitude out of Zhukovsky. She has been active throughout the month of August and according to the Russian website Aviation21.ru accumulated 37 hours and 16 minutes of flight hours in August. Prototype 73053 (004) did 25 hours 47 minutes in August, mainly in the first two weeks. Flight hours of 001 in August were 31 hours and 11 minutes. Aircraft 73056 (006, with PD-14 engines) hasn’t been active recently.
Gathering performance data
According to Aviation21.ru, Irkut is collecting data on the loads on the airframe during take-offs and landings. But the stage length of each flight of around three hours seems to correspond with the average length the MC-21 will be used on when she enters commercial service. This seems to indicate that Irkut is doing performance checks as well to determine fuel consumption.
It is likely this will be repeated with prototype 004, which is the only aircraft with a fully furnished cabin to perform route-proving flights with passengers. 004 has a single-class cabin with 172 seats as there are systems at the rear end but could be modified to take the maximum number of 211 seats.
A year ago, Irkut Corporation said it targeted a mid-2021 certification in Russia but this has slipped by a few months. The airframer, which is part of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said this was partly to blame on the Covid-situation which disrupted the original flight test schedule. UAC President Yuri Slyusar told President Vladimir Putin in July during the Moscow Airshow MAKS2021 that certification will be completed this year. Entry into service is expected around mid-2022 with Aeroflot subsidiary Rossiya Airlines, which announced at MAKS that it is busy preparing for the arrival of the first of six leased MC-21s.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.