Now is the Winter of Our Discontent. Made Glorious Summer…

July 19, 2016 | Author: Nick Maynard

There is a Russian proverb that claims that “in the land of hope, there is never any winter”. However even the most optimistic commentator of Russia’s commercial aerospace industry would find it hard to argue that following the fall of the Soviet Union, the industry experienced a long winter of discontent and decline. What is also hard to deny, however, is that from the hibernation of the post-Soviet era, the Russian aerospace industry is enjoying a spring-like resurgence.

Aerospace was a well-developed industry in the Soviet Union. In late 1980s, the Soviet Union accounted for 25% of the worldwide civilian aircraft production. Russian aerospace engineers were at the forefront of technological design throughout the Cold War period, including the development of the first, if not the most successful, supersonic passenger plane – the TU-144. The consequences of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 were however catastrophic. In 1990, the country produced 715 civilian aircraft, by 1998 the number had dropped to 54 and in 2000 only 4 civilian aircraft were produced.

After a generation of decline the skies above Russia, and indeed the world, are once again home to Russian-built airliners. The resurgence in the industry’s fortunes are largely due to the consolidation of the major players in to the United Aircraft Corporation. Established on 2006, the company encompasses some of the most famous names in aviation including Irkut, Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Ilyushin and Tupolev.

Two aircraft in particular reflect the global resurgence of the Russian aerospace industry, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 and the Irkut MC-21. The SSJ100 regional airliner is the first major Russian civilian aircraft of the post-Soviet era. The plane, which first flew in 2008, has been described as the most important and successful civil aircraft program of the Russian aerospace industry. Both domestic and international carriers operate the aircraft including CityJets, who flew the Ireland Football Team to the European Championships on the SSJ100 earlier this month.

The other landmark aircraft also achieved its own milestone earlier this month. The Irkut MC-21 was officially unveiled on June 8th, though the first flight is not expected until 2017. The aircraft, which has a passenger capacity of 150–200 and a range of 5,000 km, will compete with the likes of the B737 MAX and A320neo.

Both aircraft combine Russia’s famed aviation design and production skills with the latest systems from leading aerospace suppliers around the world. Honeywell technologies on the SSJ100 and the MC-21, include the APU, avionics, satcom and mechanical systems. Returning to our proverb, when it comes to the Russian commercial aerospace industry it seems that “in the land of hope, there is never any winter”. Whether this hope will blossom in to glorious summer - only time will tell!”

Nick Maynard

Nick Maynard

Marketing Communications Manager