Russia eyes Middle East market for new passenger plane

Irkut's chief designer and first deputy director Oleg Demchenko named Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia as target markets for the MC-21
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Airline, Irkut-mc21, Russian plane, Passenger planes

Russia on Wednesday unveiled to clients its new MC-21 passenger plane, billed as a competitor to Boeing and Airbus even though the project has been stymied by sanctions and glitches with its predecessor, the Sukhoi Superjet.

The new plane was the showpiece at the MAKS air show outside Moscow, which President Vladimir Putin formally opened on Tuesday with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It took to the air to perform for potential customers after more than a decade in production hampered by multiple delays.

Produced by Siberia-based manufacturer Irkut, the medium-haul plane seats up to 211 passengers and has a range of 6,000 kilometres (3,730 miles) - enough to take it from Moscow to any European destination.

It is the Russian aviation industry's big hope after setbacks with the regional Sukhoi Superjet 100 liner, launched in 2011 as the first post-Soviet civilian airplane.

"We have achieved several agreements on MC-21 during this forum," said Ravil Khakimov, the head of Irkut, without giving details.

Irkut says on its website that it has signed hard contracts for 175 planes already, listing mostly Russian airlines as clients.

The plane's catalogue price will be cheaper than its direct competitors in the medium-haul range, Khakimov promised.

The MC-21 "is set to compete on the market with Airbus 320 and Boeing 737," said Oleg Panteleyev, an aviation analyst who heads industry website Aviaport.ru.

Putin at the opening lauded Russia's aircraft manufacturers for "breakthrough projects" such as the MC-21, and described the country as "among the flagships of the global aerospace industry".

The air show is the first since Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a conglomerate of civilian and military aircraft makers including Irkut, was put in the hands of state-owned corporation Rostec last year.

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