Russia Claims Its New Passenger Jet Beats Airbus and Boeing’s Planes

Airbus, Boeing executives chuckle quietly, return to counting piles of cash.

Russian Passenger Jet

In a bid for civil aviation relevance that carried more than a slight whiff desperation, Russia unveiled a new twin-engined passenger jet this week at a flashy ceremony in Siberia, even hauling out the country's political number two to sing the jetliner's praises.

At the ceremony for the Irkut Corporation's MC-21, also known as the MS-21, prime minister Dmitry Medvedev declared the new short- and medium-range jet was "cool." Folks, this is a man who works out and barbecues with Vladimir Putin. He knows what it means to be "cool."

"I only want to say that I am absolutely certain that the airliner will be the pride of Russian civil aviation," Medvedev said, "and that our citizens and foreign people will take pleasure in flights on MC-21."

The plane, which is expected to enter service in 2018, competes directly against the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320, two of those companies' most successful models. Depending on the variant, the new Irkut jetliner ranges between 121 and 139 feet long, with a wingspan just shy of 118 feet. The plane will be capable of seating between 130 and 211 people, and can reportedly fly routes of nearly 4,000 miles.

Much like the larger Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the MC-21 reportedly makes extensive use of composite materials to reduce weight. As a result, Irkut—a subsidiary of the state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation— claims the airliner will be roughly 15 percent cheaper to operate than its competitors from the other side of the former Iron Curtain.

Medvedev used the launch of the MC-21 to highlight the importance of keeping Russian aircraft manufacturers relevant in an era when the international jetliner market is largely dominated by Western aviation leviathans like Airbus and Boeing. With Russia still burdened by international sanctions in the wake of its Ukrainian invasion, the country is trying to regrow a domestic industrial base that has atrophied in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Oh, and if you haven't had your daily dose of irony, make sure you watch through to the 19-second mark in the first video below.