Russian MC-21 resumes flight tests, certification in question?

After a short-term suspension due to COVID-19 preventive measures, the flight test program for the Russian narrowbody aircraft Irkut MC-21-300 is underway again, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced on April 22, 2020.

According to UAC, more than 300 flight tests of MC-21-300 have already been performed with more than 650 in total required to get certification in Russia and start deliveries. The certification process of the aircraft is planned to be completed by the end of 2020. 

Though the intensity of the test flight program has been gathering pace since the beginning of the year, as UAC claims in the press release, the milestone of 300 flight tests has been achieved during almost three years of testing. That said, how likely is it to finish the flight test campaign in 2020?

When the first flight tests unwrapped back in 2017, the maiden MC-21-300 flight showed that the aircraft wing required further modifications. Then, in 2018, the delivery of necessary composites was halted by the US restrictions. The string of bad luck for the aircraft had led to the certification being protracted.

Some experts believe it will take way more than 650 test flights for MC-21 to complete certification. The anonymous sources close to UAC told Vedomosti media that the MC-21-300 case would more likely imply around 1000 testing flights. Thus, the certification might be postponed for a period of six months to a year.

Among the parameters that have already been fully or partially tested, as shared by UAC, are extreme angles of attack, aircraft landing system, and navigation equipment, as well as external lighting equipment at night.

The start of mass production for MC-21-300 is scheduled for 2021. 

The aircraft is expected to reach the market in two configurations: in a regular two-class layout with 163 seats, and with the super-dense interior designed for 211 seats. 


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