Drawing the contours
The final choice of suppliers of components and finished parts for Russia’s future 150-210 seats medium-range MS-21 airliner is expected to be made by the end of 2009. Creating this aircraft, Russia is going to intervene into the most demanded segment of the global market. In the next 20-25 years demand for commercial airliners of such size is forecasted on a level of 10,000 aircraft. So far, duopoly of Boeing and Airbus reigns in this segment of the market but China has already announced its ambitions having started working on Comac C919 program. In Russia MS-21 is being developed by a team of designers headed by Irkut corporation. Russian designers plan to conquer 12-15% of the international market that is to sell 1,200-1,500 aircraft.
The project can succeed only if it is developed quickly. It is expected that Airbus and Boeing will start selling their new narrowbody airliners approximately in 2020. They will replace current Airbus A320 and Boeing 737NG families. It is clear that MS-21 will be unable to compete against the new generations of Airbus and Boeing airplanes. The task for designers is to achieve 15% lower operational costs compared to the current narrow-body aircraft and to outrun the competitors in the time of new product’s release on the market. The maiden flight of MS-21-200 with capacity of 150 passengers is planned for 2014 while the deliveries are to start in 2016. Certification of the 180-seat MS-21-300 is expected in 2018 and certification of the 210-seat MS-21-400 is expected in 2020.
China has set practically the same timeframe for Comac C919 coming to the market. But, according to well-informed representatives of the Russian aircraft industry, direct competition between MS-21 and C919 is hardly possible because China aims to satisfy the demand on the huge domestic market while Russia’s task in MS-21 project is to revive the national designer school and production facilities in the sector of civil aviation. Hence, MS-21 project, together with Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jet, is one of the priority programs for Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
According to Irkut’s president Oleg Demchenko, MS-21 project is developing according to the schedule and active detailed designing of the aircraft will begin in January of 2010. Tenders for 11 out of the 14 key systems have already been conducted and two best bids have been chosen for three systems of the first level. Negotiations with suppliers of these systems continue now.
Choice of the power plant will be the most interesting. Designers of MS-21 decided to propose two options of engines to the future customers of the airplane, namely a Russian engine and an engine produced abroad (although with a Russian partner). With regard to the Russian designer and manufacturer everything is more or less clear. These are Perm-based Aviadvigatel and Perm Engines (both are controlled by United Engine Corporation). At MAKS-2009 air show the Perm engine-building cluster demonstrated samples of fan blades, combustion chamber, elements of the cooling system and nozzle blades of the future PD-14 engine for MS-21.
Among the foreign contestants Pratt & Whitney (US) and Rolls-Royce (UK) made it to the second round. CFM International and a team of Moscow-based Salyut and Zaporozhye-based Progress and Motor Sich were not put on the short list. In any case, it is impossible to rule out that Salyut will participate in the program as a partner of Rolls-Royce because in such case the company will receive a big civil project and will diversify production facilities. If Pratt & Whitney wins the tender the Perm engine-building cluster will be its partner.
For the tender Pratt & Whitney proposed PW1000G engine with the fan drive through the reduction gear (GTF technology). Certification of PW1000G is planned for the end of 2011 and from 2013 the engines will be mounted on Mitsubishi Regional Jet (modification with thrust of about 8 tons) and Bombardier CSeries aircraft (thrust of approximately 11 tons). An engine with thrust of about 14 tons will be created for MS-21. In principle, representatives of Pratt & Whitney do not deny this, mounting of their engine with the fan drive through reduction gear on MS-21 will increase the company’s chances for victory in much more important tenders for choice of power plants for the new generations of Airbus and Boeing narrow-body aircraft.
For the MS-21 tender Rolls-Royce presented a more traditional concept of an engine made according to a three-shaft configuration. The company proposed a project of brand new engine RB285, which used the technologies implemented in the newest Trent 1000 engine designed for Boeing 787 airliner. Representatives of Rolls-Royce state that for the engines of an MS-21-size aircraft the three-shaft configuration is close to the reduction gear one in efficiency but from the technical standpoint this option is simpler. In general, the Irkut’s tender commission will face a tough choice and results are not obvious. Moreover, because Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney have a good experience of interaction in the framework of International Aero Engines (IAE) consortium that produces V2500 engines for narrow-body airliners it is impossible to fully rule out a possibility of alliance between them for creation of a new engine with a prospect to mount it on future Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
Competition or cooperation
Bids of Rockwell Collins (US) and Corporation Avionika (Russia) made it to the second round with regard to the avionics system and bids of Aviapribor-Holding (Russia) in cooperation with Goodrich AS (France) and Moog (US), as well as Liebherr Aerospace (Germany) were chosen for the integrated flight control system.
The final results of these tenders are not summed up yet but it is necessary to say that in this case the competing contestants also can form an alliance in principle and offer a joint solution that combines the strong points of the options that are alternative now. It is impossible to rule out that during further negotiations with the tender commission the parties may come to this very decision because it may be not only mutually beneficial for participants of the tender but may also supply MS-21 with more advanced systems.
The indisputable favorites in the tender for the right to supply 11 systems for which the final decision has been made are American Hamilton Sundstrand and French Zodiac Aerospace. American Hamilton Sundstrand will supply the auxiliary power plant, a wing defroster system and, in cooperation with research and production association Nauka and Hamilton Standard – Nauka JV, an integrated air conditioning system. For supply of the electric system the commission chose the joint bid of Hamilton Sundstrand and French company ECE, a part of Zodiac Aerospace corporation. Members of Zodiac Aerospace corporation were also chosen as suppliers of the interior (American C&D) and fuel and oxygen systems (French Intertechnique). The neutral gas system will be made in cooperation by Intertechnique and Hamilton Sundstrand. The fire protection system will be supplied in cooperation by Hamilton Sundstrand and French L’Hotellier (a part of American corporation Kidde Technologies). Nizhny Novgorod-based Gidromash was chosen as designer and manufacturer of the landing gear system for MS-21.
With regard to the hydraulic system the commission chose the bid of American Eaton Corporation. Yury Lebedev, marketing manager of Eaton for MS-21 program, has told Russia & CIS Observer that an absolutely new hydraulic system will be designed for the Russian airplane. It will be lighter and more efficient than the existing models. The representative of Eaton does not rule out that this system may be offered for new airplanes of Boeing and Airbus in the future. Along with this, Eaton is ready to buy up to 50% of parts and components for production of the new system in Russia. Now the American company organizes a tender among Russian suppliers and plans to choose the Russian partner for participation in MS-21 program by the mid-2010.