MAKS 2021, an international air show held for the 15th time at Zhukovsky International Airport 40 km southeast of Moscow, Russia, ended on July 25. Despite the negative factors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition attracted a significant number of participants.
A total of 538 Russian companies and 91 exhibitors from 20 countries took part in the event. The semi-digital format helped attract 202 companies from 53 countries.
The Baikal light utility aircraft, the Ka-62 helicopter and Mi-171A3, the first Russian helicopter designed for offshore operations and maintenance of offshore drilling platforms, as well as modernized Ansat-M, Ka-32A11M and unmanned VRT300 helicopters displayed at the show stirred the interest of MAKS guests. The mid-range Irkut MC-21 airliner equipped with Russian-made PD-14 engines was presented to the public for the first time. The regional turbo-prop IL-114-300 aircraft was unveiled at MAKS too. Mikhail ALEKSEEV, the aircraft's chief designer and test pilot Igor ZINOV told wek.ru about IL-114-300 future prospects.
Q: “Mr. Alekseev, it is known how much your plane has been waited for in the regions. Will it arrive there soon, and will it be able to live up to expectations?”
A: “The plane does have a difficult fate. The basic design was developed back in the 1980s. The first flight was made on March 29, 1990. Tashkent Mechanical Plant produced almost two dozen of them. Then the works were stopped due to the well-known problems in the 1990's and declining interest in the aircraft. However, An-24 and An-26 are expected to be retired from civil aviation by 2027. Russia currently has about 300 regional airplanes such as Yak-40, An-24 and An-26. This is not enough and their replacement is long overdue. This task is entrusted precisely to IL-114-300. It is particularly needed in areas with a harsh climate, in the Republic of Yakutia and the Far East. It can land on airstrips at low temperatures, on ice, snow, and soil. Someone even joked that such a UAZ [a robust and durable off-road vehicle] would come in handy now for civil aviation. To my thinking, the potential market is not limited to Russia. Countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and India are ready to consider the purchase of this low-maintenance plane. It is planned is to produce up to 100 such planes by 2030. Full-scale production will start in two years. Batch production will be launched at the P.A. Voronin aviation plant in Lukhovitsy outside Moscow, which currently assembles MiG fighters. The cooperation also includes Voronezh Aircraft Joint Stock Company, Ulyanovsk Aviastar-SP and the Sokol aircraft building plant based in Nizhny Novgorod. All of them are members of the United Aircraft Corporation. In addition to regional passenger transportation, IL-114-300 can be used in aero-medical, patrol or polar aviation, and the Ministry of Defense is also interested in it.
Q: “Are leasing companies interested?”
A: “The agreement on the lease of 19 aircraft to the Far East was signed in the presence of Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov. The State Transport Leasing Company, Ilyushin Aviation Complex and Aurora Airlines agreed on this. To be honest, no large orders for a 1.44 billion ruble ($19.6 mln) plane have been placed as yet. Surely, it won’t sell like hotcakes.”
Q: “On top of all this, foreign competitors are already tapping the full potential of our airfields. Do you agree with this?”
A: “The competitors are mainly French-Italian ATR-72, Canadian Bombardier Q-400 and Chinese aircraft.”
Q: “Is the new IL different from the model produced in Tashkent?”
The general architecture of the units has been preserved. The avionics and propulsion system have been seriously upgraded, which makes it possible to change the economic and technical characteristics of the aircraft and meet modern requirements. The plane features a modern all-weather flight and navigation system, digital engine control, and state-of-the-art air conditioning system. Modern composite materials and new powerful Russian engines make it much lighter and more economical.
Q: "A painful question for us is aircraft after-sales service. Do you think UAC is ready to solve these problems?"
A: "I agree: taking into account the Superjet after-sales service experience, I am sure that both UAC and the Ministry of Industry and Trade will avoid the mistakes they made in the past and deal with the problem in earnest."
Igor ZINOV, honored test pilot of the Russian Federation, who flew more than forty types of combat and civil aircraft.