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Will Russia’s Ecojet fly off the drawing board?
06 July 2014

Submitted by Sarah-Jayne Russell

In 2007, EasyJet announced that by 2015 the aviation sector would need an «ecojet» that was 25 per cent quieter than a 737 or an A320, and that would generate 50 per cent less carbon dioxide.

The airframe, said EasyJet, would be made of advanced weight-reducing materials and its open-rotor engines would significantly improve fuel efficiency. Meanwhile the aircraft would be designed to operate over short distances and at low cruise speed to reduce drag and weight.

After unveiling the concept of the «EasyJet ecojet» to the world, the LCC went very quiet.

The baton was taken up, however, by Rosaviaconsortium, the Russian group of investors, OEMs and Aeroflot behind the twin-engined, medium-range Tupolev Tu-204 jet.

In 2009, Rosavia launched the Friget EcoJet programme to develop a new widebody medium-haul aircraft that would be based on an entirely new aerodynamic and structural design, providing considerable fuel efficiencies.

And, while Airbus and Boeing rejected the idea of building a medium-ranged widebody, over the past five years the Frigate EcoJet programme has done exactly that.

It has designed a triple-aisled passenger aircraft with a strikingly different oval fuselage. The EcoJet will be powered by two turbofan engines, though the group has yet to decide between the PD-18R, PS-90A20, the new Trent engines or the PW1000G.

The new jet will carry between 260 and 400 passengers, have a range of 3,000–4,000km range and will travel at a cruising speed of 850km/h.

The programme has worked closely with the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI), which has issued an approval of its technical proposals concluding that the configuration is feasible and will generate aerodynamic efficiencies of up to 35% higher compared with modern aircraft.

And now the EcoJet is set to make the leap from concept to reality, according to Rosaviaconsortium.
Yesterday (July 3), the group confirmed that it had created a new legal entity, named Friget EcoJet, which will take the last five years of research and focus on engineering the aircraft.

«The Frigate Ecojet project is entering a very important stage of its realisation — the launch of the design and construction phases," said Friget EcoJet’s new appointed CEO Vasily Danilov. «One of the first steps will be the establishment of an engineering center in Zhukovsky, in the Moscow region.»

This centre will be testing full-scale fuselage sections for durability and examining how models of the aircraft perform in a low temperature wind tunnel that closely resembles actual flight conditions.

The aim is to have the EcoJet up and in production by 2020, and for 250 of the all-new aircraft to be built by 2030.

You cannot question Rosaviaconsortium’s ambition or commitment, but is the world and, more importantly, the money-paying airlines ready for a medium-haul widebody that looks like it’s been squashed?

Rosavia and its investors seem convinced there’s a market there, but only time will tell whether this interesting idea translates into the real world.