The vast majority of modern airliner families feature more than one variant of the aircraft in question. This gives operators greater flexibility in tailoring their fleet to their specific needs by choosing variants that best correspond to them. Whether an airline favors range or capacity in a particular airliner family, there will generally be a variant that suits them. The upcoming CRAIC CR929 is also set to have multiple variants, but how do they differ?
What is the CRAIC CR929?
The CRAIC (China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation) is a joint-venture project between two Chinese and Russian manufacturers. These are COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) and UAC (United Aircraft Corporation), the latter of which is a consolidation of companies including Ilyushin, Irkut, Sukhoi, and Tupolev.
Together, the companies are planning to design and produce a long-range, twin-engine widebody airliner. This will take the name ‘CR929,’ with the latter two numbers referring to its proposed 290-seat capacity. COMAC is also thought to be considering a larger 390-seat C939.
It will be interesting to see what kind of an impact the aircraft has when it enters service in the mid to late-2020s. CRAIC is targeting a 10% share of the long-haul widebody market with the aircraft, an area dominated by Airbus and Boeing. However, the latter is taking competition in the narrowbody market from the COMAC C919 seriously, so these established manufacturers may also find themselves wary of this larger design.
The standard version
According to COMAC, the standard version of the aircraft will be the CR929-600 model. This variant will have a capacity of 280 passengers, and a range of 12,000 km (6,480 NM). In terms of capacity, this puts it in a similar ballpark to aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner.’
The Airbus A330neo (-900 variant) can also hold a similar number of passengers. However, these established aircraft both have the edge over the CR929 in terms of range. They can fly for 14,140 (7,635 NM) and 13,334 km (7,200 NM) respectively.
Extra range or capacity, but not both
UAC also reports that there will be a short-fuselage version of the aircraft, known as the CR929-500. Naturally, this will have a lower capacity than the standard version, seating around 250 passengers, but with a greater range of 14,000 km (7,560 NM).
This means that it will marginally outperform the Boeing 787-8 in both of these fields. However, the Airbus A330-800, which also has a similar capacity, outranks it in terms of range, reaching 15,094 km (8,150 NM).
For airlines facing higher demand, size matters. Such carriers may find that they are tempted by CRAIC’s stretched CR929-700 variant. This will have an enhanced capacity of 320 passengers, but a lower range measuring 10,000 km (5,400 NM).
This capacity is similar to the Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-900. However, neither of these compromise on range in the way that the CR929-700 does. The stretched Dreamliner can fly for 11,910 km (6,430 NM), while the A350-900 clocks in at an impressive 15,000 km (8,100 NM).
Therefore, on the whole, it seems that the different CR929 variants generally cannot match their Airbus and Boeing rivals in terms of these key specifications. Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to find out which versions are most popular among the airlines that do place orders for the type.
Which version of the CRAIC CR929 do you believe will be the most successful? Have you ever flown on an aircraft produced by either COMAC or UAC, the two manufacturers involved? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.