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Russians target Turkey and Gulf states to find new customers for Irkut MC-21

Moscow - Russia's Irkut, a state-run commercial aircraft manufacturer, aims high. The company wants to compete with Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737-MAX with its MC-21 which is currently under development.

Although the aircraft made a stunning debut at the MAKS 2019 in Moscow, it still suffers a lack of demand from international customers. The aircraft has so far accumulated 175 firm orders mostly from the Russian airline operators. The production of the MC-21 should thus be secured for the first years, but there are no new orders since 2017.

Aeroflot claims almost one-third of the total order backlog with 50 copies.

Irkut is therefore actively looking for new customers abroad for its newly developed jet

The MC-21 made its first flight in 2017 and the aircraft was supposed to enter into service at the end of 2018. But it was delayed until 2021 due to sanctions that hampered the supply of the plane's US-made carbon composite wings and Pratt & Whitney engines.

Three MC-21 prototypes are currently making the regular rounds of testing around the Zhukovsky Airport near Moscow. Two more will join the Irkut's test fleet soon.

Experts from the Russian Federal agency for Air Transport (Rosaviatsiya) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are regularly onboard during test flights.

Irkut expects the MC-21 to be certified by Rosaviatsiya next year and by EASA in 2021.

Irkut is planning to deliver six aircraft for the first year. It is said to be 12 in 2022. The manufacturer aims to increase production to 72 aircraft per year by 2025.

The long-term goal of the Russian manufacturer is to deliver 1000 MC-21 jets until 2037.

To this end, the company aims to attract more customers outside of the country. According to UAC chairman Yuri Sljussar, Russia is in talks with Turkey to sell the aircraft to the Turkish flag carrier Turkish Airlines.

Turkey has been on the UAC's radar for quite some time for Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ100) but the Turkish side was cold to the notorious SSJ100. UAC (United Aircraft Corporation), the parent company of Russia's state-run aerospace firms, is now looking for local partners in Turkey to make the MC-21as attractive as possible for the Turkish carriers.

At the MAKS 2019 in August, Russian President Putin personally guided his Turkish counterpart Erdogan through the plane, and a month later the MC-21 celebrated its international premiere at the Teknofest in Istanbul.

Another Russian official, Rostec chairman Sergey Chemezov said last month that they were also in talks with the various Gulf States during the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show.