Russia unveiled its first MC-21 medium-haul passenger plane today as it aims to revive its beleaguered civil aviation industry and challenge giants Airbus and Boeing.
The prototype of the MC-21 plane, that can carry up to 211 passengers, was presented in the hangar of the Irkut aircraft manufacturer in the Siberian city of Irkutsk in a glitzy ceremony broadcast on Russian state television.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the unveiling of MC-21 was a “long-awaited event for our civil aviation, for aeronautic construction and for our whole country”.
“This confirms that we are able to create such aircraft that not only make our civil aviation progress but that will compete with other countries,” Medvedev said, adding that the plane will become the “pride of Russian civil aviation”.
The MC-21 passenger jets are expected to replace the ageing, Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-204 and make their first test flights by the end of the year or in early 2017.
The aircraft is scheduled to come into service in late 2018.
Russian has its hopes set on competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which dominate the international civil aviation market.
The unveiling of the MC-21 comes five years after Russia’s short-haul Sukhoi Superjet aircraft came into service and has since had serious technical issues.
Russia’s aviation agency in 2013 grounded the Superjets – which have had technical issues with landing gear and leak detection systems since they came into service in 2011 – over a series of technical issues before being allowed to resume flights.
A Superjet performing at an Indonesian air show in 2012 slammed into a volcano, killing all 45 on board, in a crash Indonesia blamed on pilot error.