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Russia’s new airliner ready to tackle with rivals

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Irkut MS-21, Russia’s latest regional airliner, held a successful test flight on Sunday, and is ready to enter mass production, the company officials said during a press conference.

The airliner, whose prototype was unveiled last June, flew for 30 minutes at a height of 1,000 meters and a speed of 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour, said its makers, the Irkut Corporation aircraft manufacturer. It took off from the city of Irkutsk where the Irkut company is based and flew over the region.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees aviation and space, wrote as he watched at the scene: “We’re flying!” President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti state news agency that Rogozin “by phone reported to Putin that our medium-haul plane took wing, carrying out its first test flight.”

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Company test pilots complemented the aircraft’s design and performance

The president of Irkut, Oleg Demchenko, said in a statement that “today is a historic day for our staff and for all the big team that worked on creating the MC-21.”

The jet was piloted by two of the country’s most decorated test pilots, Oleg Kononenko and Roman Taskayev, who both complemented the aircraft’s design and performance. “There were no negative points identified that prevented the continuation of the tests,” Kononenko was quoted as saying by the company.

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The aircraft’s cockpit

The Ms-21 can carry up to 211 passengers and is designed for the mass-market travel industry. It can fly up to 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), according to the makers.It is a new single aisle airliner produced by Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, and is the first passenger plane made out of lightweight carbon-composite wings built without a costly pressurized oven called an autoclave.

The manufacturing process provides a test for a technology already being assessed by Western rivals, who are looking for cheaper and faster ways to build some of their aircraft with composites, according to aerospace executives and suppliers.

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The MS-21 was designed as a medium-range regional airliner equipped with both business and economy class

Russia has its hopes set on competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which dominate the international civil aviation market. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last year he hoped the new plane “will compete with other countries.”

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A chart representing Russia’s share in the global production of regional airliners

The makers promise a “new level of comfort” for passengers thanks to the largest fuselage in the plane’s class and large windows. Irkut says it has signed contracts with a number of airlines, including Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot, UTair and the Kyrgyzstan Air Company.

Rogozin said last week the company had 185 firm orders for the plane, quoted by RIA Novosti.

The maiden flight comes six years after Russia’s short-haul Sukhoi Superjet aircraft came into service in 2011. They have since suffered serious technical issues that have forced the plane’s grounding.

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