MOSCOW • Russia on Sunday held a successful test flight of its new MC-21 medium-haul passenger jet that it hopes will revive its troubled civil aviation industry and challenge giants Airbus and Boeing.
The plane, whose prototype was unveiled last June, flew for 30 minutes at a height of 1,000m and a speed of 300kmh, said its makers, the Irkut Corporation.
The plane took off from the Siberian city of Irkutsk where the Irkut company is based, said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, writing on Twitter.
President Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti state news agency that Mr Rogozin "by phone reported to Putin that our medium-haul plane took wing, carrying out its first test flight" .
Irkut's president, Mr Oleg Demchenko, said in a statement that "today is a historic day for our staff and for all the big team that worked on creating the MC-21". The jet was piloted by two of the country's most decorated test pilots, Mr Oleg Kononenko and Mr Roman Taskayev.
Mr Kononenko, said the "flight assignment was completed fully" and the "flight went normally". "There were no negative points identified that prevented the continuation of the tests," he was quoted as saying by the company.
The maximum number of passengers the MC-21 can carry
Western aviation sources, however, expressed surprise at the flight's brevity and relatively low altitude compared with recent three- to four-hour debuts of North American and European models.
"It suggests they either have severe limitations or may have had something happen and decided to come back," said a Western flight test engineer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The MC-21 can carry up to 211 passengers and is designed for the mass-market travel industry. It can fly up to 6,000km, according to its makers. Production is expected to start in the next two years and Irkut said it so far had "firm orders" for 175 planes.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS