American and Russian Engines Chosen for the MS-21 Liner

NPK Irkut, which is developing the MS-21 civilian aircraft, has finalized its choice of the engine suppliers. The Kommersant newspaper has learned that within a month the corporation will sign firm contracts for engine supplies in batch quantities with America’s Pratt & Whitney and Russia’s United Engine Corporation (UEC). The combined value of the order based on the list price of the engines may well top the 1.1bn dollar mark, but the producers are offering Irkut a 100m dollar discount.

Kommersant has learned from two separate industry sources that in mid-May the Irkut corporation, a division of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), is expected to sign a firm contract for the engines to be used on the MS-21 civilian aircraft, which is now in development. The engines will be supplied by Pratt & Whitney (a division of United Technologies) and Russia’s United Engine Corporation. Both were chosen by Irkut as engine suppliers back in 2009. Back then the Americans even won the tender to supply engines for the aircraft; the contract with UAC is needed in order to give the buyers of the aircraft a choice of engines (Boeing and Airbus also offer a choice of two different engine models for most of their aircraft).

Since 2009 Irkut and the suppliers have been negotiating details of the contract, i.e. the price, the numbers of engines to be supplied, and the deadlines.

“Irkut is already preparing to sign a contract with Pratt & Whitney; this could happen on May 15 or 16,” an industry source has told Kommersant. "But it is very likely that by that time UEC will also have prepared the final draft of the contract, so the contracts with the two suppliers will be signed simultaneously.” The press services of Irkut and UEC have told UEC that the negotiations are at the final stage. Pratt & Whitney refused to comment.

According to one Kommersant source, Pratt & Whitney and UEC will receive an initial order for 100 engines each, to be delivered starting from 2016. The list price of one PW1000G Pratt & Whitney engine, according to the source, is 5.4m dollars. The Russian PD-14 engine, which is still in development, is priced at about 6 million. This means that based on the list price, the combined value of the engines to be ordered by Irkut is over 1 billion dollars. But two Kommersant sources claim that Irkut has secured a discount. They say that Pratt & Whitney is prepared to drop 500,000 dollars off the list price for the first batch of the engines, while UEC plans to reduce the price to 5.5 million dollars.

The two sources have also told Kommersant that Pratt & Whitney and UEC are in the final stages of talks on launching local production of the Pratt & Whitney engine in Russia. The two companies may well sign a memorandum of intent in the coming weeks or months. In accordance with that memorandum, UEC will assemble the engines in Russia from kits supplied by Pratt & Whitney, and also provide post-sale service for them on Russian territory.

The MS-21 is a short and medium-haul jet; it is expected to replace the Tu-154 and the Tu-204. It can carry 150-215 passengers; its maximum range is 5,000-5,500 km. It is expected to enter service in 2016. The preliminary list price of the aircraft is 65m dollars. Firm orders for the MS-21 have already been placed by Malaysia’s Crecom (50 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines), the Russian Technologies corporation (50 aircraft to be operated by Aeroflot), and the Ilyushin Finance leasing company (28 aircraft with an option for another 22).

Oleg Panteleyev, head of the Aviaport agency, says it is not obvious which of the two engines the customers will prefer. “Both of these engines are new, so neither has a proven track record,” he explains. The advantage of the American engine is that engines of the same family will be used on Japanese and Chinese aircraft, as well as on the Airbus A320 NEO, so customers may count on better post-sale service. On the other hand, the expert says, if UEC works for Irkut as its main customer the company will also be able to build a good service infrastructure on the local market.

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