United Aircraft Corp. considers projects beyond MS-21 narrowbody
Russia's ambitions in civil aerospace are met with skepticism around the world. But with the in the early phase of revenue service and the MS-21 narrowbody in the midst of development, state-owned . (UAC) is looking at further projects: a 130-seat jet and a new widebody venture.
Neither project is anywhere near certain, but the fact that UAC is even talking about aircraft beyond what it is developing shows the ambitions of the Russian aerospace sector. Government funding will ultimately determine whether the projects will come to pass. Although aerospace has enjoyed backing as a strategic sector, President Vladimir Putin has often voiced frustration over its slow progress.
According to UAC CEO Mikhail Pogosyan, the 130-140-seat aircraft would feature a composite wing and other advanced technologies, but he says it is too soon for a timetable for the project. The aircraft would fill the gap between the Superjet 100 (SSJ100), with fewer than 100 seats, and MS-21, with 150 seats.
Pogosyan told Aviation Week at the air show here that UAC is initially considering a high-density SSJ100 seating configuration for as many as 108 passengers. The next step will be a stretched version likely in the 120-seat range. Sukhoi, a UAC-subsidiary, is at work on extended-range and corporate jet variants.
The SSJ100's reputation suffered a setback after one of the test aircraft crashed in Indonesia on May 9 during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people onboard. No technical issues have emerged in the course of the investigation to date.
Any further product development of the Superjet and the possible launch of the 130-seat jet will depend on the sales success of the current SSJ100, Pogosyan says. He indicates that more detailed studies are to be conducted within the next year.
The prospective 130-140-seat aircraft would compete in what is already a crowded market:aims to deliver its first 110-seat CS100 by the end of next year, followed by the 149-seat CS300. The and MAX 7 are chalking up orders in the 140-seat segment. Nonetheless, Pogosyan says, “the commercial market is evolving and we see a niche for UAC.”
Initially, the main goal is to ramp up civil aircraft production and advance development of the MS-21. In addition, Pogosyan points out that UAC integration has to continue to make the group more efficient. It plans to create centers of excellence that work across programs so that the various plants will then only be responsible for aircraft final assembly. That transition to centers of excellence “will come with the growth of civil production,” he says.
UAC subsidiaryhas begun releasing MS-21 design documentation, after reviewing results from testing of a prototype of the aircraft's all-composite wing box. “This is an important step forward in implementation of the program,” says Pogosyan. “It allows us to finalize agreements with all the major partners.” Preliminary results of the tests at Moscow aerohydrodynamics institute TsAGI matched mathematical models, he says, giving confidence in the carbon-fiber wing design to proceed with design release.
Manufacture of the initial MS-21-300 version is planned to begin in 2013, with first flight planned for 2015 and first deliveries in 2017. Production will be divided between Ulyanovsk and Irkutsk; the initial aircraft will be built at Aviastar in Ulyanovsk.
Irkut President Alexei Federov says the company has commitments for 261 aircraft, including 185 firm orders, 150 of which are to be powered by Pratt & Whitneygeared turbofan. The other 35 are to be powered by Russian manufacturer United Engine's PD-14 turbofan. The MS-21 is being designed to offer a lower operating cost than foreign competitors, says Yuri Slyusar, Russia's deputy minister for industry and trade.
The target set for Pratt & Whitney is to lower engine operating costs by 20%, says Bob Saia, vice president for the next-generation product family. The geared turbofan will improve fuel efficiency by over 15%, he says.
The first ground run of the PD-14 turbofan was conducted June 10, says Andrey Reus, general director of Oboronprom, the holding company for United Engine.
The two-shaft engine has a 1.9-meter-dia. (75-in.) fan and a bypass ratio of 8.5:1. United Engine is reporting a 12-16% reduction on cruise specific fuel consumption compared with currently certificated engines. Composites comprise 30% of the aircraft.
Western suppliers are developing other systems in addition to the engines. Zodiac is responsible for the interior and electrical, fuel, oxygen and inert-gas systems. FACC will build wing leading edges, cowlings, flaps and fuselage fairings and will make a prototype of the center wing box.
As a next step following the MS-21, UAC is looking at the widebody segment. It is “analyzing a possible partnership” with Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac. “We are thinking of critical technologies that we need to have for such an aircraft,” says Pogosyan.
China has tentative plans to develop a new widebody dubbed the C929, but there appears to be no fixed timeline for development or launch, given that Comac is busy with thenarrowbody program. Like China, Russia has talked about reviving the full range of passenger aircraft, including widebodies in the longer term. Comac and UAC once discussed cooperation in the narrowbody market but could not come to an agreement, which led to the launch of the two competing programs.
As part of an intergovernmental agreement, UAC subsidiaryis to provide China with technical design data for the four-engine Il-96 widebody, which was designed in Soviet times and first flew in 1988.
But Pogosyan stresses that “we can definitely say that the Il-96 will not be the basis for a new widebody.” He says a new aircraft of this type would have to include technologies such as an open avionics architecture, be more electrical and feature composite wings. “We are evaluating with the Chinese the feasibility of such a product, but it is still preliminary,” he says.
Pogosyan says the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow would be a good time to ask questions about more technical details, indicating that it will take years before any concrete plans evolve.