How does MC-21 stand among competitors?
The aviation industry is on the rise: in 2015 there were around 3.5 billion air travelers, that are expected to double in the next twenty years. Hand in hand with passenger traffic, the number of aircraft will rise, especially the single-aisle plane section with deliveries of over 20,000 new aircraft. Russian aircraft manufacturer Irkut just rolled out "The Airliner of the 21th Century" – MC-21 that competes with Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and Comac C919. How does it stand among rivals in getting the market share in single-aisle field?
The single-aisle aircraft market is dominated by two plane manufacturers that have been in business for over 150 years combined: US-based Boeing and European Airbus. However, China has also presented the new Comac C919 aircraft in order to stir the waters. What are their specifications?
The Boeing 737 MAX family has a maximum passenger capacity of 180, powered by CFM International’s LEAP-1B engine, with a price tag ranging between $90-110 million per unit. The aircraft has over 3000 orders, with launch carrier being Southwest Airlines in 2017.
Even though the orders of the aircraft are solid, in recent years they are lagging behind Airbus'. To compete with Airbus A320neo, Boeing has been considering to install a larger CFM International’s LEAP-1A engine, that could increase the passenger capacity. However, the critics reported that the larger engine would need the repositioning of the plane's landing gear that may cost $1 billion or more.
Meantime, Airbus A320neo family can seat up to 185 passengers, is powered by Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1100G-JM engine and recently received joint EASA and FAA certification for CFM LEAP-1A turbofan. The plane costs around $70-100 million, it was ordered over 4,500 times, with launch customer being Lufthansa in 2016. It is the only aircraft from the new generation of narrow bodies that is in operation, however its service has been plagued by software, hydraulics and engine problems.
For instance, Qatar Airways recently canceled the delivery of their first A320neo because of constant delays, caused by overheating engine. The Middle Eastern carrier claimed that the PW1100G-JM engine was not properly tested for Gulf region temperatures and delays of six moths have led the carrier to invoking the cancellation cause. Lufthansa and IngiGo have also expressed their discontent with the aircraft but chose to accept it with modifications to be followed in the future.
Comac C919 aircraft is developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. The plane can seat 174 passengers, is powered by CFM International CFM LEAP-1B engine and is likely to be priced at $50-60 million. The total number of firm orders is uncertain, Chinese media states that it exceeds 500 and booked mainly by Chinese carriers. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2018-2019.
MC-21 airliner has a passenger capacity of up to 212 passengers - the largest of rival airplanes.It currently offers two engine choices: Russia’s Aviadvigatel PD-14 and the Pratt & Whitney’s PW1400G with a plane price estimated around $60-80m. The aircraft has around 275 orders: 175 of them being firm, while the remaining one hundred are optional.The MC-21’s launch carrier in 2018 will be its largest customer – Aeroflot.
In addition to passenger capacity and lower aircraft price, MC-21 is expected to have a better fuel efficiency because of new PurePower PW1400G engine. Although Pratt & Whitney does not reveal the actual number, the engine maker claims PW1400G-JM engine will deliver double-digit improvements in fuel efficiency as well as reducing noise by 50%. In addition, the MC-21's design will reduce the pressure in the aircraft during the flight, increasing the level of comfort on board and making it more attractive for passengers and the airlines.
The newly presented MC-1 aircraft has the largest capacity of the rivaling aircraft, would be more fuel efficient because of the new engine and is relatively cheaper. However, until it is put into service, it is difficult to forecast plane's financial feasibility. Airbus and Boeing have already a wide network of MRO services, repair shops, spare parts suppliers. At the beginning, neither MC-21 nor Comac C919 will be able to impact the duopoly heavily, but if the Russian aircraft proves to be technically reliable and financially feasible, in the long term, global single-aisle aircraft market could be more competitive.
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