In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that highly efficient twin-engine widebodies are the future of long-haul travel. The Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ family is a key example of this trend, and its success has led the US manufacturer to produce more than 1,000 of them to date. Meanwhile, the Chinese-Russian CRAIC CR929 is waiting in the wings to penetrate this market. But how exactly does it compare to the 787?
What is the CRAIC CR929?
Let’s start by getting up to speed with regard to the nature of this upcoming Chinese-Russian design. CRAIC (China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation) is a joint venture between Chinese manufacturer COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). They entered this partnership in 2017.
The joint venture’s goal is to produce a twin-engine aircraft that will capture 10% of the global widebody market. Known as the CR929, it is presently set to have three variants: the 250-seat CR929-500, the 280-seat CR929-600, and the 320-seat CR929-700.
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A Dreamliner challenger?
With the project’s aforementioned goal of a 10% market share in global widebody deliveries, the CR929 will need to be able to compete with similar aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. This begs to question as to how it will stack up compared to the likes of the 787.
Starting with the smallest variant, the CR929-500 has a projected capacity of 250 passengers. Meanwhile, its range is set to be 14,000 km (7,560 NM). Both of these figures marginally outrank the smallest Dreamliner, the 787-8. This Boeing design has a typical two-class capacity of 242 passengers. Meanwhile, its range is 13,620 km (7,355 NM).
Moving onto the CR929-600, we know that this variant’s projected capacity is 280 seats. It won’t be able to match its smaller counterpart in terms of range, but will still manage 12,000 km (6,480 NM). It falls behind the mid-size 787-9 in both of these metrics. This Dreamliner variant has a typical two-class capacity of 290 seats, and a range of 14,140 km (7,635 NM).
As for the CR929-700, this variant’s 320-seat capacity will be ideal for airlines plying high-demand routes. However, they will have to sacrifice range, as it can only fly for 10,000 km (5,400 NM). Once again, the stretched-fuselage 787-10 Dreamliner exceeds both of these metrics. It has a typical two-class capacity of 330 seats, and a range of 11,910 km (6,430 NM).
A matter of time and reputation
As we can see, the 787 is the more favorable choice for the larger two variants as far as the statistics are concerned. Only the smaller CR929-500 is able to outperform its Boeing counterpart, but will one better variant give CRAIC the 10% market penetration it desires? Ultimately, there are also other factors that will make this a difficult task.
First of all, you have to consider the reputation of a manufacturing juggernaut like Boeing. It has got to where it is today by being one of the best in the business, garnering extensive customer confidence along the way. This confidence helps it to gain, and, importantly, retain loyal customers, which has seen 787 orders exceed 1,400 examples.
Then there is, quite literally, a matter of time. Later this year, the 787 will celebrate 10 years since its first commercial flight with ANA. Meanwhile, uncertainty surrounds the CR929’s potential start date. While its production is reportedly on track, disagreements over suppliers may see its entry into service pushed back as far as 2029. As such, while the CR929 is an interesting project, it is hard to see it comparing favorably with the Boeing 787.
How do you think the CRAIC CR929 will end up performing? Would you be willing to give the aircraft a try over the 787? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.