Russia operated the maiden flight of its new MC-21 medium-range passenger plane yesterday, venturing into mainline commercial aircraft production for the first time post Soviet-era, as it seeks to rival western rivals in the field.
Manufacturer Irkut Corporation and its state-controlled parent company United Aircraft Corporation said an MC-21-300 model had successfully completed a 30-minute flight at a height of 1,000 meters, traveling at 300 km an hour.
According to commentators, Russia, which was under western sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis was trying to rejuvenate domestic industrial production to make the country less dependent on foreign firms.
The test flight comes only three weeks after China staged the maiden flight of its new C919 passenger jet, highlighting the growing competition to industry heavyweights Boeing and Airbus.
According to Russian officials, the MC-21 was superior to its western-made counterparts in many respects and will sell well, with both Russian and foreign carriers. According to western analysts, Russia and China faced a huge challenge to shatter the transatlantic airplane duopoly.
The Irkut MC-21 will compete with the most popular airliners in the world, the single-aisle Boeing (BA) 737 and Airbus A320.
The prototype took to the air last morning from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant airfield in Siberia, about 2,600 miles east of Moscow, and reached an altitude of 1,000 metres during the 30-minute flight.
According to Oleg Kononenko, the flight's lead test pilot, the aircraft operated normally.
The aircraft's maiden flight was much shorter than that of its Chinese competitor and other similar aircraft, that had flown for an hour or longer and at a higher altitude.
The flight comes ahead of the Paris Air Show, which starts 18 June, but Irkut had not yet said whether the jet would make its international debut at the event.