• Commercial Engines

On the Runway at the MC-21 First Flight

June 2017

A Firsthand Account

A team of Pratt & Whitney engineers stood among 200 Irkut employees behind a long ribbon near the runway.

“We were all quiet as we heard the first engine spool up and get to idle, but could not hear the second engine start behind the sound of the first engine at idle. The plane sat for a minute to let the engines warm up and out of nowhere. we hear a roar.”

Two Yakolev 133 fighter jets roll in front of the MC-21 and make their way to the runway. The fighter jets prepare to escort the MC-21 on its maiden flight at Irkut’s airstrip in Siberia. The Yakolevs take off one by one and barrel roll into the clouds.

Pratt & Whitney Test Engineer Mark Smith wrote the quote above and these words describing the scene. “As the aircraft taxied by, it showed us the tail when it was making the turn onto the runway. and the sound from the engines almost disappeared. I was surprised at how quiet the engines were during all of the taxi tests and that day of first flight. The aircraft set up on the runway and as the Yakolev chase plane came into view behind the plane, the engines spooled up. Just as the chase plane was getting close, the brakes were released on the MC-21 and the aircraft shot forward.”

“The MC-21 accelerated down the runway, and you could feel the tension in the crowd rise. As the chase plane caught the MC-21, the aircraft rotated back and lifted off the ground. A roar broke over the crowd as the many hours of work that everyone in attendance put into this project paid off,” said Smith.

Under cloudy skies, Irkut took to the skies on May 28 with a successful first flight with the MC-21 aircraft powered by PurePower® PW1400G-JM engines pumping out 28,000 to 31,000 pounds of thrust. These new engines provide a 16 percent reduction in fuel consumption and significant environmental benefits.

“The MC-21 gracefully lifted off the runway and soared seamlessly into the clouds, out of sight. A few minutes later, the MC-21 came back into view and appeared to be on approach preparing to land. Just before the plane touched down, the pilots pulled up and soared by the crowd at max power. Once again, I was amazed at how quiet the engines were. After that pass, the plane circled around and landed without issue,” Smith continued. “We were all teeming with excitement knowing the first flight was successful. It took a while for the accomplishment to sink in. We had all been working so hard prior to the first flight, the milestone didn’t even feel real. The pilots walked off the plane and were immediately thrown into the air a few times in celebration of the first flight. Everyone was excited to talk to the pilots, and the entire crowd was grouped up by the plane. Later, the pilots made a comment that they were surprised at how little fuel was used on the first flight.”

“We’re proud to have powered our fifth PurePower® Geared TurboFan™ engine airframer on its first flight and look forward to a successful aircraft certification,” said Tom Pelland, senior vice president, Commercial Engine Programs. “The collaboration we’ve built with Irkut is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our employees.”

Mark Smith added, “I am incredibly proud to represent Pratt & Whitney during this milestone. We are at the beginning of a new era with quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft. I can’t wait to fly on this next generation of aircraft.”