The Chinese-Russian widebody airliner, the C929, will begin to be produced this year. Finally, the parties involved in the project appear to have reached an agreement on suppliers, design and materials, and have said they will now start making the first aircraft. The news comes as COMAC also reveals that its narrowbody aircraft, the C919, will be delivered to its launch customer before the end of the year.
Partners finally in agreement on the C929
The Sino-Russian project to develop a widebody aircraft to rival the likes of the Dreamliner is edging closer to reality. Reporting in Russian media TASS today indicates that the CR929 should begin production later this year. The parties have now agreed on the parameters of the aircraft, including its shape, size, materials to be used and the major suppliers involved in the project.
Yang Zhigang, general engineer of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd (COMAC), spoke to Chinese media about the development. He said that starting construction would mean that the entire design phase is now complete and that the details of the aircraft are now ‘frozen’ in place. Speaking to Global Times, he noted,
“For the core systems of the CR929, we wish to be supplied by two or more companies.”
He said this was something of an insurance mechanism to ensure the continuous operation of the business. Redundancy is a big plus in aviation, so it sounds like a top notion to maintain some assort of failsafe when embarking on a clean sheet design such as this.
The CR929 will be a single-deck widebody aircraft capable of carrying up to 440 passengers to a range of around 12,000 km. To date, it has been no more than a paper plane, as the Russian and Chinese project leaders struggled to reach an agreement on things like suppliers and specifications.
Now, with agreement reportedly solidified, the development can finally move on. CRAIC has high hopes for the Dreamliner alternative, previously telling Yicai Global that they expected to sell as many as 1,000 aircraft between 2023 and 2045. Although that timeline has slipped, the loyalty of Chinese airlines to their home-grown manufacturers means it stands a good chance of at least coming close to that ambition.
C919 will be delivered by the year-end
The Chinese foray into aircraft manufacturing has moved on at pace in the past 12 months. 2019 saw the first ARJ21 regional jet from COMAC entering service, while last year, all three major Chinese airlines took delivery of their first of the type. Over the course of the year, the planemaker logged a record number of deliveries, with 24 ARJs entering service with airlines.
But the regional jet is not the only COMAC project gaining traction. Last year, the C919 narrowbody made its first public appearance, with COMAC remaining positive that it would gain certification this year. That seems to be a firm plan, as the type pushes on through its various certifications. Today, Yang told the Global Times that,
“The C919 aircraft is scheduled for delivery to the first client at the end of 2021.”
The launch customer will be China Eastern subsidiary OTT Airlines.
With the ARJ21 already in the market, the C919 looking to launch by the end of the year, and the widebody manufacture beginning, 2021 is shaping up to be a game-changing year for these Boeing and Airbus alternatives.