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Russia’s New Midsize Airliner Shares Lineage To Ancient Soviet Yak

Watch the First Flight of the MC-21

Since the fall of the Soviet Union there have been few aircraft designed and built by the former Soviet states. One of the exceptions is the new Irkut MC-21. The twin-engine airliner was developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau and produced by Irkut- themselves both parts of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The MC-21 is a direct competitor to the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. It took the Russians 11 years to get the MC-21 off the drawing boards and into the air, but on May 28th the MC-21 flew for the first time from the runway at the Irkutsk factory in Eastern Siberia.

Photo Credit: Dennis Fedorko

The MC-21 is a direct descendant of the now-dormant Yakovlev Yak-242, which was itself a derivative of the Yak-42. It is possible that the new airliner may take the Yak-242 name again once the aircraft is in production. UAC envisions the MC-21 replacing the aging Tupelov Tu-134, Tu-154, and Tu-204 as well as the Yak-42 passenger airliners in the former Soviet Union. Sukhoi designed and produced the carbon fiber composite wings. Powered by either the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G or Aviadvigatel OJSC PD-14 turbofan engines, the MC-21 can carry as many as 211 passengers as far as 3,500 miles. The aircraft has state of the art avionics and flight control systems. Airlines (mostly in the former Soviet states at this time) have ordered more than 180 of them so far.

Photo Credit: Alex Beltyukov

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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