Widebody Challenger: The CRAIC CR929 Is Now Under Production

Russia and China have started production of the CRAIC CR929, the joint-venture widebody aircraft which seeks to rival the Boeing and Airbus duopoly. The basic version CR929-600 will have the capacity for around 280 passengers and a range of up to 12,000km (7,500 miles), with a stretched version (CR929-700) and a shorter version (CR929-500) also on the cards.

Widebody Challenger: The CRAIC CR929 Is Now Under Production
Production on the C929 has begun, with mass production expected to start in 2025. Photo: Getty Images

Production begins on the CRAIC CR929

Production of the CRAIC CR929 has officially begun, according to reports from China. The widebody jet, a joint-venture between the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), will look to compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A330 in the widebody jet market.

The joint venture plane, which was first announced in 2017, has the ambitious goal of achieving at least a 10% share of the global market by 2035. According to its latest projections, CRAIC wants the CR929 to debut between 2025 to 2028 and to conduct its maiden flight by the end of 2023.

CRAIC CR929 Getty
The C929 project has been hit with many delays since its inception. Photo: Getty Images

As Simple Flying reported at the beginning of the year, CRAIC planned to get production started by the end of 2021 and appears to have met its target. Yang Zhigang, general engineer at COMAC, confirmed earlier in the year that this was the case. Additionally, the organization is looking to kickstart mass production on the CR929 by 2025.

Production has begun despite complications between the Chinese and Russian aviation companies. Disagreements involving suppliers caused significant delays on the project, with officials ruling out a 2024 entry date. Ravil Khakimov, President of Irkut, part of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said 2028 or 2029 is a more likely date.

Three different models

The CR929 will be offered to customers in three different specifications:

Widebody Challenger: The CRAIC CR929 Is Now Under Production
A CR929 model on display at the Paris Air Show in 2017. Photo: Marc Lacoste via Wikimedia Commons
  • CR929-600 – the basic version will carry around 280 passengers at a range of up to 12,000km (7,500 miles).
  • CR929-700 – the stretched version will carry around 320 passengers at a range of up to 10,000km (6,200 miles). However, a denser, one-class configuration could end up seating over 400 passengers.
  • CR929-500 – the shortened version will carry around 250 passengers but will have an extended range of up to 14,000km (8,700 miles).

1,000 sales by 2045

CRAIC has set an ambitious target of achieving 1,000 CR929 sales between 2023 to 2045. In order to do so, it will need to convince airlines that its final product is up to the task of challenging Boeing and Airbus. While many Chinese airlines are expected to show loyalty to domestic-made aircraft, convincing international carriers will be more challenging.

Widebody Challenger: The CRAIC CR929 Is Now Under Production
Will the CRAIC CR929 offer a real challenge to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner? Photo: Getty Images

There may be more opportunities for sales in the African and South American market, where carriers are often on the lookout for cheaper alternatives to Boeing and Airbus planes.

According to CRAIC, the CR929 will be up to 15% cheaper to operate than its Boeing and Airbus widebody rivals, although this fact remains to be seen.

Do you think the C929 will prove to be a success? Do you see it getting anywhere near its target of 1,000 sales by 2045? Feel free to share your insights in the comments.