In a fancy showroom at the Paris Air Show, IRKUT has its fuselage display of its new airliner, now known as the MC-21. The company is new to the medium sized commercial airliner business, but has tremendous aerospace experience via its military programs and is involved with the SSJ100. For example, IRKUT is the company behind the SU-30 and YAK-130 and Beriev Be-200.The MC-21 is going to exploit Russian talent for aerospace design and manufacture while deploying the best of western systems. For example, the MC family will utilize the PW PurePower engine as used in the Airbus neo, Mitsubishi MRJ and Bombardier CSeries. The approach has attracted quite of attention because the MC family is going head to head with Airbus’ A320 family and Boeing’s 737 family.
Airbus and Boeing have not said much, if anything, about this program. This despite it attracting 190 orders and MOUs. (Bombardier has just over 110 CSeries orders and attracts snide remarks on a regular basis.) It would seem that since the MC has mainly received attention from Russian airlines the large western OEMs have held back. Of course one should ponder this, because as the MC reaches EIS, it will mainly be replacing Airbus and Boeing equipment.
By accessing western systems partners, IRKUT is tapping into more than just technologies. Osmosis may be playing a role – take a look at this PR kit handed to media at the company’s event today. Its all about eco-friendliness. Recycled materials and also DVDs on the firm’s projects and even its test pilots. This is a new level of transparency. And, perhaps, signifies growing confidence. The MC-21 (or MS-21 among western readers) looks increasingly credible. It is in the single aisle sweet spot and should taken seriously. The program may be in early days – but EIS is planned for 2016. Even assuming some delay (it’s the new new normal after all) the airplane should be in service before 2020. Many airlines are going to be watching to project – not just Russian ones. Success of the MC program could very well lead to surprises as a lower cost alternative to the current OEMs.
We have said before that we see the end of the single aisle duopoly. Listening to the people at IRKUT, this view is supported. It might not happen very soon, but certainly it could be within the decade.