MS-21 – digest for January-2024

Photo by © Yakovlev PJSC press service

In 2023, the enterprises of Rosatom State Corporation doubled the volume of carbon fibre supplies for the Russian aviation industry, including for the production of the composite wing of MS-21 aircraft. Also, within the framework of the import substitution programme, supplies of prepreg for the horizontal wing of MS-21 aircraft will start in 2023.

In 2020, R&D work began with Platov South Russian University (YuRGPU) and Bauman Moscow State Technical University (MSTU) on the development of robotic systems for laying dry carbon tape. To manufacture full-scale gantries and robots, Center-Invest Bank provided bank guarantees totalling more than RUB 600 million to YuRGPU in January 2023. The carbon fibre stacking robot developed by engineers from YuRGPU will replace imported equipment in the serial production of Russian aircraft wings.

A bank guarantee is an obligation of a bank to repay a client’s debt to third parties. Such a guarantee is necessary in order to obtain goods or services without taking out a loan or using working capital, as well as tax benefits. “Centre-Invest has been working effectively with the YuRGPU for more than 10 years and is its strategic partner. The bank’s support will enable the NPI to guarantee the fulfilment of its contractual obligations to create the technological equipment that will be used in the production of MS-21 aircraft.

The production of MC-21 aircraft airframe units is being redistributed from Ulyanovsk Aviastar to other aircraft building enterprises of the country. Thus, the assembly of the airframe compartment will be performed by the Irkutsk aircraft plant, while the production of door and underwing compartment parts has been transferred to the Sokol plant in Nizhny Novgorod. At present, the plant is building a duplicate production, which will involve stamping, mechanical assembly, metallurgical, forging and pressing, foundry and assembly units.

To organise the production of the MC-21 underwing compartment, Nizhny Novgorod aircraft builders have mastered the shot peening method of surface hardening. This specialised process makes it possible to increase ten times the service life of parts that experience high loads during aircraft operation. Sokol is also preparing the production of the stabiliser repositioning mechanism attachment unit.

On 11 January, the Irkutsk aircraft plant received another (left) wing bracket for one of the MS-21 aircraft under construction. The structure fixed on the trailer frame travelled more than five thousand kilometres from Ulyanovsk to Irkutsk in 10 days. The console was transported on a 24-metre long trawl attached to a tractor, custom-made specially for transporting the wing of a civil aircraft. At “AeroComposite” the console was packed, mounted on a frame, impact sensors were attached to it, signalling damage, and on 31 December the trailer left for the road.

Delivery of MS-21 wing console from Ulyanovsk to Irkutsk / Photo by © UAC

The convoy included cover vehicles with banners on their roofs warning other road users of the long length of the load being transported. Some cities the convoy travelled through at night, and, for example, Omsk and Kemerovo, had to be bypassed in order not to get into hours-long traffic jams. The average speed was 60 kilometres per hour.

The transport distance depending on the route is 4500 – 4850 kilometres. So why is road transport, rather than aviation, used to deliver such valuable and complex units over several thousand kilometres? Sergey Milyukov (15.08.1949 – 21.07.2023), Director of Irkut’s branch in Ulyanovsk, answered this question in an interview with Production Management back in 2019.

Delivery of MS-21 wing console from Ulyanovsk to Irkutsk / Photo by © Yakovlev PJSC press service

He said at the time that during their visit to Toulouse, Russian specialists learnt about Airbus’ experience in logistics for the delivery of A350 aircraft units for assembly. Despite the fact that transport distances in Europe are short compared to those in Russia, Airbus first used two Super Guppy transport aircraft and later utilised five A300-600ST Beluga aircraft. Russia does not have Beluga-type aircraft for transporting oversized cargo by air, and therefore it was proposed to create a similar transport version based on the MS-21 – the Nerpa aircraft. However, this may be relevant in the case of a large series, but for now it is more economically feasible to use the delivery of consoles and other structural elements of the MC-21 to Irkutsk by road transport.

“When we were in Toulouse,” recalls Sergei Smirnov, UAC Deputy Director General for Production and Technical Development [in 2019], “several Belukhs landed there per day. Moreover, the components they deliver do not go to the warehouse, but straight to the final assembly shop. But this is with a production programme of 16 A350 aircraft per month. I am not talking about the A320 programme. We have more modest plans – 72 MS-21 aircraft per year. That is why we are still focusing on ground transport. At this rate of assembly, it is more economically favourable”.

Seven flights of the MS-21-310 prototype aircraft (board 73051) with a total duration of 30 hours and 12 minutes were performed in Zhukovsky in January 2024. The Russian Aviation website was told by the Yakovlev Design Bureau that these flights continued to evaluate the parameters of the PD-14 engines with updated software.