Russia’s First Commercial Airplane Takes Off

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Russia has built its own commercial airplane. This is a potential long-term threat to Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Airbus which between them own the commercial aircraft business worldwide.

Russia’s Irkut Corporation reported it had cleared a major milestone with a test flight during which its MC-21-300 “flew 30 minutes at the altitude of 1000 meters, at the speed of 300 km/hour.” While this does not compare to the flight duration and altitude levels which are routine to Airbus and Boeing planes, it is a reasonable start on the path which would allow Irkut to sell planes within several years. The company said it has reached several milestones in the recent test:

The flight plan included checking of in-flight stability and controllability, and also the controllability of the power plant. According to the program, during the flight a simulated landing approach was performed, followed by a flight over the runway, climbing and turning. This technique is typical for the maiden flight of new types of aircraft.

The MC-21-300 will eventually carry 163 to 211 passengers, which Irkut describes as the largest segment of the airline market. It also said the MC-21-300 will compete well with existing planes because of polymer composite materials. This lightens the aircraft, which Irkut says will reduce operating costs by between 12% and 15% in contrast to its direct competitors.

And, its most director competitor is one of the most successful plane in the world, the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which is sometimes called the 737-8. The first 737 went into service in 1968. Boeing has made almost 9,500 planes across the entire model line which has been updates several times. The new 737 MAX 8 began production 2014, had its firsts flight in January 2016, and its first delivery, to Malindo Air, this month. Boeing says it has over 700 orders for the new plane.

While there is a chance the MC-21-300 will sell it Russia, it has a very long and hard climb to replace one of the most popular commercial aircraft in the world, made by one of the world’s largest and most well-funded companies, which has a history of delivering tens of thousands of planes.