A new airliner was launched on June 8, 2016 by the Russian company Irkut Corporation.

enter image description here Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/

The airliner looks good on paper:

  • Empty plane weight is reduced due to composite and prospective alloy materials and lighter new generation onboard systems
  • Wide cabin (3.81m), MC-21's cabin is wider than the cabin of an Airbus A320 by 12 cm and a Boeing 737 by 28 cm. As a result, two passengers can walk through the aisle without blocking each other. The wide cabin also supports the biggest luggage racks in its class in order to accomplish the goals of decreasing MC-21's turn-around time at the airport (important for charter and low-cost carriers), providing better comfort for passengers, and making the cabin more suitable for carriers' purposes
  • Relatively to the current models MC-21’s engines will emit 20% less СО2 per passenger seat
  • High cost operational effectiveness, international certification under AR IAC, EASA, FAA requirements, individual logistic and maintenance support during all life cycle will make the aircraft attractive both for Russian and foreign carriers

Source: Wikipedia

Almost all of the orders look like they come from Russian airlines. But why haven't any US/UK/Japanese etc. airlines ordered any planes?

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    $\begingroup$ Ever wonder why an airline chooses a single manufacturer or even model for its entire fleet? Its incredibly expensive to change, or have multiple types of aircraft from the standpoint of personnel and maintenance. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 10, 2016 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ A new, unproven airplane was launched yesterday, and you're asking why there aren't orders for it yet? $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 10, 2016 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky It has nearly 200 orders. The question even mentions them and has a link to them: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irkut_MC-21#Orders. It's asking why there are no orders from the west/Japan. All aircraft are "unproven" until they're in service, and all receive orders before they're even built. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not against answering this (and the answers we have so far are good), but isn't this the type of question that usually gets closed as too broad or opinion based? Unless we have someone from the purchasing dept of an airline lurking about, it will be hard to really know why. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 10, 2016 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan The platform is about collecting answers from experts so if someone from the purchasing department from an airline could answer it, then it seems that this is an excellent question. The questions that ought to be closed are those for which two experts would not agree on what a good answer is. $\endgroup$
    – Relaxed
    Jun 11, 2016 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


Ordering an aircraft is a very complex business, and implicates a number of matters that don't actually (on the surface, anyway) have anything to do with the aircraft itself. Consider this from the point of view of a western European or north American airline.

Broadly political obstacles

These could include:

  • international trade agreements and disputes (Russia's relations with much of the world are not very friendly at present)
  • existing suppliers ("Lovely relationship we've enjoyed since the 1970s; it would be a shame if someone carelessly trampled it underfoot and soured it.")
  • governments and politicians ("Oh really? Well, it certainly has been nice supporting you fearlessly in Parliament/the Ministry/Congress/against my opponents who hate your guts. Bye!")
  • national expectation ("Traitors!")

History and reputation

Russian (like Chinese) design, technology, engineering and manufacturing have a reputation in the west that works against them. These things take decades, not years, to be overcome by stellar achievements in those fields (consider how long it took "Japanese" to become regarded as a positive rather than a negative adjective when applied to products).

However unfairly, this feeds in to other obstacles:

  • customers ("Get on a Russian airliner? No way!")
  • shareholders ("You're proposing to buy a what?!")


Then, it doesn't make sense to buy one plane to "try it out". Even with a single aircraft of the type, you'd need the same training, certification, engineering support, etc etc as if you had a fleet of them.

So, you'd be looking at a fleet of them, and now you're facing the purchase of a fleet of aircraft that very much represent an unknown quantity. It's a huge, huge risk; no wonder airlines cleave so strongly to the Airbus/Boeing duopoly - maybe it's not entirely to their economic advantage, but they don't expect too many surprises, which is arguably more important.

Some of these risks:

  • are simply technical ("How good will the product turn out to be in the long run?")

  • are economic ("Could the trade climate make spare parts and maintenance prohibitively expensive in the future?")

  • hinge on international relations ("Could our government ban us from working with this supplier in future? Could a meddling Kremlin disadvantage us?").

How could it work? Will it ever work?

Give it a couple of decades.

If airlines in places like India, Indonesia, Brazil, with fewer historical attachments and political obstacles than in the west, find that the aircraft and manufacturer prove to be good for them, bit by bit we may see that influence trickle into western airlines, especially as those non-western airlines and the economies they belong to expand and become more influential themselves.

  • $\begingroup$ These reasons are plausible, but how much plausible? Examples supporting them would be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jun 10, 2016 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @mins, Politics, and the Kremlin getting involved are very real and not just "plausible" reasons. Describing Russia's relationship with the West right now as "not friendly" is a slightly massive understatement. There are currently huge trade sanctions against Russia because of their movements in Ukraine and Syria. And the Russian economy is suffering because of it. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Jun 10, 2016 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ Brasil, except for the fact they have their own aerospace manufacturer, Embraer. :) $\endgroup$
    – blaughw
    Jun 10, 2016 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ryan: Politics is one point and the most plausible, agreed. For history, reputation and international agreements, I'm not as sure, I notice that ESA is launching Soyuz from Kourou, ISS is relying on Russian design of module Zvezda and the Russian team for its day to day control, on Soyuz for shuttling astronauts and on Progress for cargo (and during a long time only Progress). There is worse as a reputation and "How good will the product turn out to be in the long run?" is a question that could as well be asked for other countries. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jun 10, 2016 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ @mins, launching Soyuz from Kourou does not carry that much of a risk for either side and ISS relying on Russian support is older political decision from just after the collapse of Soviet Union when US wanted to prevent loss of the knowledge and experience the Soviet space teams had. And the Soyuz does have better safety record than what NASA had and the people in the space business know it. It still does not translate to reputation of other Russian technology. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 13, 2016 at 14:22

CityJet has taken delivery of the SuperJet SSJ100s, one of the first carriers in Europe to fly a Russia made aircraft.

The reason that other airlines haven't placed an order is the fact that you need a completely new maintenance facility, crew, workers, parts storage etc, to maintain the aircraft or you need to completely outsource the maintenance. Since there are no other European airlines operating them you need to fly them to Eastern-Europe for maintenance. (From the US is this difficult given the range of the aircraft)

The second item is no problem for low cost carriers that do not do the maintenance themselves. But low cost carriers prefer to fly one type of aircraft (Easyjet, Ryanair) This saves cost on crews and facilities since everything is focused at one type of aircraft (or family). So a new low cost carrier could consider them, but when looking at the history of low cost carriers is that they start with old planes and when successful replace them with newer and cheaper to operate aircraft.

And lastly the unknown trackrecord and new market (for Irkut) does play a role, Airbus for example had quite some difficulties to sell their aircraft on the US market when they first started, some legacy of that is still visible since most of the US airlines fly an all Boeing fleet. Airbus did get their share of the market by giving huge discounts to US airlines ordering aircraft.

So to conclude, the airline industry is a high tech environment which on the other hand can be very conservative and does a lot of risk management when considering the purchase of aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not so sure most US airlines fly an all-Boeing fleet in 2016. I have flown multiple carriers recently and have flown Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer. As far as I know the only completely homogeneous fleet is Southwest's fleet of only 737s. Which does support your point of maintenance costs, since Southwest does mention "only one type of airplane to maintain" as an official reason for keeping costs down. $\endgroup$
    – user3305
    Jun 10, 2016 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ Mainline Alaska Airlines is 100% Boeing 737. $\endgroup$
    – blaughw
    Jun 10, 2016 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @blaughw: Only until their acquisition of Virgin America is complete. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ Ryanair in the UK only uses 737s. There reason is "This streamlined fleet helps us to keep costs down and safety standards up." $\endgroup$
    – DJH
    Jun 11, 2016 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Of the 20 largest airlines in North America, 12 are based in the US. Of those, 3 currently operate an all-Boeing fleet (Southwest, Alaska, Sun Country), and Alaska will add Airbus planes when it acquires Virgin America. Four others operate no Boeing aircraft (JetBlue, Frontier, Sprit, Virgin America). The remaining five operate a mix of Boeing and non-Boeing. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 14:59

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