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MC-21 rolled out

_On 8 June 2016, the Irkutsk Aviation Plant (an affiliate of UAC's subsidiary Irkut) hosted a ceremony of the rollout of the first flying example of the advanced Russian-built MC-21 short/medium-haul passenger airliner. The prospective airliner was unveiled to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the leaders of the federal and regional authorities and delegations of the subcontractors, airlines and media.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who addressed the ceremony, noted that the MC-21 programme was "driving the whole of our country, our economy forwards". He stressed that "there are very few countries with an aircraft industry, they constitute a kind of premier league, and we must not drop out from the premier league; therefore, we are working for the long term and will continue to update the Russian civil aircraft fleet. The MC-21 is superior to the in-service commercial planes in the same class as far as technological sophistication is concerned. Certainly, it will be a very good aircraft, efficient and reliable."

Opening the ceremony, Irkut president Oleg Demchenko thanked the designers, engineers, workers, manufacturing engineers and managers - "everyone working together in hundreds of Russian and foreign companies". "We have invested in the plane not only advanced solutions, we have invested our souls into it," Irkut's president said, emphasising that there was an equally important phase for the airliner to pass - the flight tests.

A large pool of subcontractors, including Russian and foreign aircraft industry leaders, has emerged to implement the MC-21 programme. A unique component and final assembly line, which has no rivals in Russia, has been set up in the Irkutsk Aviation Plant. The fuselage panels of the prototype MC-21-300 No 0001 arrived in Irkutsk from the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP plant in spring 2014, and the first fuselage sections were assembled and joined here in summer 2015. Earlier this year, AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk delivered composite wing panels made with the use of the unique vacuum infusion technology. The first flying prototype of the MC-21-300 is equipped with latest PW1400G-JM engines received from Pratt&Whitney in the second half of 2015. In the future, customers will be able to choose the MC-21 powered by advanced Russian-made PD-14 engines as well.

Plans for the first MC-21-300 to start its flight tests in early 2017 were voiced during the rollout ceremony. This will be preceded by a large-scale debugging and test programme and the static tests of the second prototype. Its fuselage has been virtually completed by the Irkutsk Aviation Plant and is due to be delivered to TsAGI in September 2016, with the wing, empennage and other components of the aircraft 0002 to be brought there too. A lot has to be done in Irkutsk to build the endurance test prototype (0003) and second flying prototype (0004) by year-end, and another MC-21-300 flying prototype and two MC-21-200 protoypes are slated for assembly in 2017-18.

Attending the MC-21 rollout, United Aircraft Corporation President Yuri Slyusar emphasized that "the MC-21 has resulted from huge collaborative efforts - the first programme, under which UAC's major subsidiaries, including newly-established AeroComposit and UAC - Integration Centre, have been working in line with a common plan." UAC is developing up-to-date high-tech production infrastructure, including centres of competence for key components and systems and a large pool of subcontractors to develop advanced products by means of digital designing. The MC-21 is a product of Russia's updated aircraft industry."

The development of the MC-21 has given strong technological impetus to most of UAC's subsidiaries. A large-scale technical re-equipment of the subsidiaries in Irkutsk, Ulyanovsk, Voronezh and Kazan has been carried out under the MC-21 programme.

Irkut Corp. is the prime contractor under the future MC-21 new-generation airliner development and production programme in line with the Russian President's executive order dated 6 June 2010. The Irkut Aviation Plant, a subsidiary of Irkut Corp., handles the construction of prototypes and production aircraft of the MC-21 family.

The division of labour under the MC-21 programme is as follows. The Irkutsk Aviation Plant is tasked with fuselage manufacture and aircraft final assembly. Aviastar-SP in Ulyanovsk supplies the metal panels of the F1 through F5 fuselage sections, tail section and auxiliary power unit (APU) section as well as the whole set of doors (11 per plane) to the Irkutsk Aviation Plant.

Ulyanovsk also is the venue for the assembly of the empennage, which polymer composite panels and primary structure are made by Obninsk-based ORPE Technologiya, a subsidiary of RT-Chemcomposite holding company. Centre wing section, spars and integral wing panels are made of polymer composites by the new AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk plant using a cutting-edge infusion technology, while composite wing leading and trailing edges, wing high-lift devices and elevators are provided by KAPO-Composit in Kazan (AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk and KAPO-Composit are the Ulyanovsk- and Kazan-based venues of AeroComposit JSC, a UAC subsidiary).

The MC-21 is to become the first Russian airliner with the all-composite wing. Overall, the polymer composites account for about 30% of the MC-21. Voronezh-based VASO plant is participating in the manufacture of the engine nacelles for the PD-14 engines and is supplying landing gear doors, wing fairings, flaps fairings and other fibreglass parts as well as engine pylons.

Provision has been made for two types of powerplant for the customer to choose from - the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G-JM geared high-bypass ratio turbofan and the PD-14 turbofan from Russia's United Engine Corporation (Aviadvigatel JSC as prime contractor for development and the Perm Engines plant as prime contractor for production). Hydromash JSC in Nizhny Novgorod makes nose and main gear struts. UAC - Integration Centre, a UAC division, is integrating the avionics suite, which includes both Russian (from Concern Radio-electronic Technologies enterprises) and imported systems, and developing software for it.

To build the MC-21, the Irkutsk Aviation Plant in 2014 assembled the first stage of an advanced automated machine assembly line equipped with positioning and laser measuring systems. The line is used for assembling and mating fuselage sections and for final assembly with the use of up-to-date digital technologies. The plant's latest equipment and premises available will allow it to manufacture up to 70 MC-21s a year.

The construction of the AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk facility on the premises of the Aviastar-SP plant kicked off in November 2011. By late 2013, the facility had manufactured over a dozen structurally similar MC-21 wing structural members for testing by TsAGI institute that had since summer 2011 been testing prototypes of the wing torsion box of the MC-21's composite wing, which the AeroComposit had ordered from Diamond and FACC AG.

The manufacture of full-scale polymeric wing torsion box spars and wing centre section panels began in Ulyanovsk in April 2014. AeroComposit had assembled the leading-edge and trailing-edge segments of the composite wing torsion box by late summer 2015 and started the wing torsion box panel installation in autumn.

The manufacture of the composite wing of the MC-21 features the automated carbon filler layup process by means of industrial robots, followed by the vacuum infusion technique. AeroComposit is the world's pioneer in using the technology in the manufacture of wing primary structural members, e.g. spars, wing torsion box panels and wing centre section. The technology allows making large integral structures (MC-21 wing torsion box panels measure about 18 m long) acting as integral structures. Their manufacture requires no additional fasteners. The vacuum infusion technique both cuts the weight of the wing and allows a more sophisticated aerodynamic form of the high aspect ratio wing.

The MC-21-300's baseline model, which flight trials with the use of PW1400G-JM turbofan engines are slated for late this year, is designed to seat up to 211 passengers on services out to 5,900 km. In the standard two-class layout, the MC-21-300 will seat 163 passengers (16 in business class and 147 in the economy one). The standard single-class layout will allow seating 181 passengers with the 32-inch seat pitch. The design documentation is to be completed this year for the MC-21-200 version with the fuselage shortened by 5.5 m. The variant is designed to carry up to 176 passengers to a distance of 6,000 km (135 in the two-class layout, including 12 in business class, and 153 in the standard single-class layout with the 32-inch pitch). The MC-21-300 will have a maximum takeoff weight of 79,250 kg, while the shortened MC-21-200's MTOW will stand at 72,390 kg.

The MC-21-300's certification and the launch of its delivery are planned for 2018-2019. Firm orders for the MC-21 have totalled 175, of which 50 aircraft have been ordered by the Aviacapital-Service leasing company, a subsidiary of Rostec state corporation, for Russian flag carrier Aeroflot and 35 more, powered by PD-14s, for Russian governmental agencies. The Ilyushin Finance Co. leasing company has awarded an order for 50 aircraft, and a 30-unit order has been placed by VEB-Leasing. In addition to Aeroflot, another MC-21 launch customer may be the Red Wings airline planning to get the airliners ordered by Ilyushin Finance Co. In addition, Irkut has landed a contract from the IrAero carrier for 10 aircraft. Negotiations with many other airlines have been under way, with tentative agreements signed with some of them.

(Photo: Andrey Fomin)

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