Russia And China’s Boeing 787 Alternative: The CR929 Hits Turbulence

Beijing and Moscow have had far-reaching plans to disrupt the diarchy of Airbus and Boeing in the commercial widebody passenger plane market. However, the intentions to do so with the joint China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation Limited (CRAIC) CR929 project seem to have hit another snag. Disagreement over suppliers has pushed the expected delivery date of the new aircraft to 2029.

Trouble with the CRAIC CR929
There is widespread dissent between Russia and China over key suppliers for the CR929 aircraft. Photo: CRAIC

Disagreement on key suppliers

As the Asia Times reports, there is a severe conflict between the two partners, which has caused the CRAIC long-range twin-engine project to come to a halt. The disagreement seems to be widespread between both officials and engineers and may threaten to put an end to the entire venture before it ever truly takes off.

A source from the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the state-owned Chinese plane manufacturer participating in the project, has said that the issue is over the selection of main suppliers. As a result, the decision on key providers could now be delayed for up to another year.

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The main issue seems to be with deciding on subcontractors and key suppliers for the new aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Final configuration delayed until next year

According to Russian Aviation Insider, Ravil Khakimov, President of Irkut, part of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), told the Russian Government already this summer that there were difficulties in the cooperation.

Supplier-lines had been expected to be cleared by 2019 but were pushed back to 2020. Meanwhile, in July this year, the CR929 program was still at the stage where proposals from potential suppliers were being analyzed before settling on the aircraft’s final configuration.

“We planned to complete this work in 2020 and move to contracting with all the subcontractors and suppliers,” Khakimov explained at the time. “Unfortunately we have some difficulties in cooperation with the Chinese partners, so this stage is likely to move for 2021.” 

According to Khakimov, the new widebody’s expected delivery date has been pushed back to at least 2028 or 2029. This would be a full four to five years later than the previously intended 2024 entry onto to market.

Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, has also stated that there was discord between the parties concerning the transfer of technology and market access. As the project is based on Russia providing the technical skills and know-how, and China the financing, one could make assumptions as to which side does not wish to part with what.

CR929 business
The aircraft is meant to challenge the duopoly of Boeing and Airbus, particularly in the Chinese market. Photo: Getty Images

A joint engine project?

There has been some confusion as to what engines would be mounted on the new airframe. At first, it was designed to have one of the more traditional manufacturers, GE or Rolls-Royce, supply the engines. However, in 2018, Russia and China announced a joint project to build aircraft engines, but no new information seems to have emerged since the declaration.

Russian and China established the joint CRAIC project in 2017 as a means to challenging the Western duopoly of Boeing and Airbus. It would be mainly geared towards the lucrative Chinese market, which, despite the 2020 giant bump-in-the-road, is still expected to grow exponentially over the coming decades. It is intended as a widebody complement to COMAC’s single-aisle C919.

What do you think? Will we see a Sino-Russian widebody jet in the skies before the end of the decade? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.