Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) delayed the deliveries of the Irkut MC-21, the country’s newest airliner, to 2025.
The delay was announced by Deputy prime minister Denis Manturov during a discussion at Eastern Economic Forum, Russian state news agency TASS reports.
The aircraft will be “fully Russified”, Manturov reportedly added, hinting at full replacement of foreign-made components.
This is the last in a series of delays for the troubled aircraft, envisioned by UAC as a competitor to the likes of the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo.
The Russian airliner was originally designed in the 2000s as the Yakovlev Yak-242. In 2007, the aircraft was renamed MC-21 and the planned service entry date was set for 2016.
It conducted its maiden flight in 2017 and the first delivery was then re-scheduled for 2020. However, delays with certification meant that the deadline could not be met, and it slipped to 2021.
In December 2021, it was announced that the first delivery was now planned for September 2022. At the same time, Aeroflot’s subsidiary Rossiya was announced to be the launch customer.
In February 2022, Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in response to which many Western countries and companies imposed heavy sanctions. Unable to get its hands on Western equipment, particularly aircraft engines, the UAC announced that the aircraft would be only delivered with the domestically-made PD-14 engine.
Despite the government speeding up the program and pouring additional finances into it, by the summer of 2022 UAC started saying that the deliveries would start in 2024.
The latest delay, voiced by Manturov, likely means further difficulties with the aircraft’s troubled development.
Problems with import substitution
Just like the Sukhoi Superjet, also known as the SSJ-100, the MC-21 was originally designed to contain many high-tech components that had to be acquired from leading Western aerospace manufacturers.
Various reasons, such as sanctions following Vladimir Putin’s 2014 occupation of Crimea and attempts to sell the aircraft to sanctioned countries such as Iran, prompted Russia to initiate a large-scale import substitution program, replacing Western parts with domestically manufactured ones.
In addition to being costly, import substitution slowed down many Russian aircraft development programs and endangered others.
The MC-21 had its composite wings swapped for domestically-built ones. The aircraft variant with Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines – the ones it was originally tested with – was jettisoned in favor of the PD-14 powered version, which is still under development.