Russia stages unannounced test flight of new plane

Russia carried out the maiden flight of its new MS-21 medium-range passenger plane on Sunday, its first post-Soviet foray into production of a mainline commercial aircraft which it hopes will rival those of its Western competitors. In a surprise statement, manufacturer Irkut Corporation and its state-controlled parent company United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) said an MS-21-300 model had successfully completed a 30-minute flight at a height of 1,000 metres and travelling at 300km an hour. Squeezed by Western sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis, Russia is trying to rejuvenate domestic industrial production to make the country less dependant on foreign firms. The test flight, which was not announced to media beforehand, comes just three weeks after China staged the maiden flight of its new C919 passenger jet, highlighting the growing competition to industry heavyweights Boeing and Airbus. Russian officials have said the MS-21 is superior to its Western-made counterparts in many respects and will be snapped up by both Russian and foreign carriers, but Western analysts say both Russia and China face a huge challenge to shatter the transatlantic aeroplane duopoly. Western aviation sources however expressed surprise at the flight‚??s brevity and relatively low altitude compared with recent 3-4 hour debuts of North American and European models. A Western jetmaking source called it a ‚??genteel flight‚??. A UAC spokesman said the flight had been long enough to test everything that needed checking in the air. Russia has fought hard to shake off its Soviet reputation for old and creaking aircraft flown by inexperienced crews. The twin-engined MS-21 will be built in two variants: the MS-21-300 and the later MS-21-200. Production is expected to start in the next two years and state media have said numerous contracts with domestic and foreign carriers have already been agreed. Irkut said it so far had ‚??firm orders‚?? for 175 planes. America‚??s Boeing and Europe‚??s Airbus remain far ahead of their Chinese and Russian rivals, with bigger sales books and more advanced technical know-how. But the new plane could win sales in Russia and some eastern European and Asian countries, industry analysts say, with buyers attracted by its lower running costs. Irkut said operational costs for its new plane will be up to 15 per cent cheaper than current generation aircraft. With a range of up to 6,000 kilometres, the MS-21 will be competing against the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft which currently dominate the medium-range narrow-body market. Both companies recently upgraded those families to achieve comparable 15 per cent operational savings compared to previous versions. Courtesy:


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