MIAMI – Russia’s first Post-Soviet passenger aircraft powered by domestic engines completed its first flight Tuesday. The MC-21 craft flew from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant’s airfield in Siberia and lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes.

The aircraft, now powered by Russian-built PD-14 turbo-fan engines, first flew in May 2017, but with US-produced engines.

The MC-21 is built by Irkut Corporation, part of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The engines are manufactured by United Engine Corporation. Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defense conglomerate, is the majority owner of both companies.

The Soviet Union was a major builder of passenger airliners used widely at home and in allied countries. After the fall of communism, airlines largely retired their fleets of Tupolevs and Ilyushins for Boeings and Airbuses.

MC-21 cockpit view. Photo: Irkut

Sanctions Force Delays

Yahoo! Finance reports that the Kremlin wants to make Russia less reliant on Western imports, particularly since 2014, when the United States and EU imposed financial sanctions in response to Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

One of the implications of those sanctions was that aircraft manufacturers had to replace composite materials in the wings with Russian-made equivalents. Moscow had planned to deliver the MC-21 to buyers in 2019, but that date was pushed back due to the sanctions. Russia now sees late 2021 as a more realistic date.

Two variants of the plane, which can seat 130 to 211 passengers, will be available for order. One will be powered by US Pratt & Whitney PW1400G-JM engines and the other by the PD-14 engines, UAC said.

State carrier Aeroflot has ordered 50 of the aircraft with other airlines on the books for 125 more. It is unclear how many would include the Russian-built engines.

An MS-21-310 passenger plane with Russian-developed PD-14 engines ascends during a test flight in Irkutsk, Russia, December 15, 2020. Photo: Rostec State Corporation/Handout via REUTERS