The successful maiden flight of the Irkut MC-21-310 aircraft this week is a clear sign that Russia is serious about restoring its civil aviation while reviving its domestic aerospace industry, aviation experts told RT.
The narrow-body jet airliner, equipped with two Russian-made PD-14 engines, took off from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant this week, with the flight lasting one hour and 25 minutes.
According to independent aviation expert and lawyer Elmar Giemulla, with the domestically made PD-14-Turbofans, “Russia would be entirely independent from foreign manufacturers.”
Any maiden flight is a technological landmark, says FlightGlobal journalist David Kaminski-Morrow, adding that, “although Irkut has already been flying the MC-21 for more than three years, the development of this new variant with the PD-14 engine is a signal that Russia is serious about reviving its domestic aerospace industry, as demonstrated by the first flight of the Il-114-300 and the continuing refinement of the Superjet 100.”
He explained that “Russia is certainly capable of conducting aerospace manufacturing independently of foreign suppliers, because the Soviet Union’s civil aviation industry demonstrated this for several decades.”
However, he said, “The question is whether such independence would benefit Russia – beyond simply satisfying its domestic market and its national pride – or ultimately have the effect of isolating Russia from a world which has become increasingly more globalized and less protectionist.”
Giemulla agreed that it is possible to end reliance on Western tech, but not overnight. “Most of the Russian fleet is Western-made. To replace hundreds of aircraft does not only mean to produce enough of them but also to wait for the Western-made aircraft to be written off,” he said.
According to Kaminski-Morrow, “There is no doubt that the MC-21 is a vast improvement on Soviet-era passenger aircraft, in terms of efficiency and comfort.”
To succeed outside the Russian market, the MC-21 will need not only to be “highly competitive and build a strong reputation, but will also need to overcome external perceptions and resistance, especially given the unfavorable geopolitical situation.”
The expert pointed out that “it is notable the MC-21 has a choice of engines – one Western, one Russian – and this provides more flexibility than simply offering only one option.”
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