The CRAIC CR929, a joint widebody aircraft under development by Russia and China, may not be on track to be ready by 2025. In fact, it may not even be ready by 2027.
What is the CRAIC CR929?
As most airlines in the world exclusively use either Airbus or Boeing products (especially so now that Bombardier and Embraer now also have partnership agreements with these manufacturers) you might be mistaken in thinking that there are no other contenders for the aviation marketplace.
However, Russia and China have both seen the western world’s dominance in this regard and have long since thought they could bring their own ideas to the market. And with Boeing predicting widebody market demand will increase substantially over the next few decades to a figure of 7690 aircraft worth $1.2 trillion USD, they will need to move fast to get a piece of that action.
The CR929 will be the former Soviet-world’s answer to the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. A twin-engine widebody aircraft capable of carrying 261-291 passengers (2-class seating) to a range of 12,000 km / 6,480 nautical miles. It has been specially designed for the markets of Russia, China and fellow pan-Asian countries like India and Vietnam.
However, despite ambitious targets to get this aircraft to market, the developers have yet to build a prototype and don’t even have a flying proof of concept. The initial joint venture had a seven-year goal in 2012, but now it looks like even their later 2025 introduction date might be missed.
According to a report from CNBC, 2025 might be a bit too ambitious for the new airframe builder.
One of the problems is how the aircraft is being manufactured. Russia will be building the wings of the aircraft, whilst China will be building the fuselage. However, there is some confusion over the engine option. Are either of the two countries building them, or are they being built by GE, Pratt & Witney or Rolls Royce?
Originally the design called for either GE or Rolls Royce to power the aircraft, but just before the type was revealed at the 2018 Zhuhai airshow, another joint project between China and Russia to build a new aircraft engine was announced.
Then, before officials could release a statement, both a Chinese company (Aero Engine Corporation of China) and a Russian company (Russia’s United Engine Corporation) threw their hats into the ring and wanted to be considered.
Why does this complicate the delivery date?
If the design isn’t locked in for an engine yet, then the engine manufactures can’t plan around building the engines. Unlike products like a car or items you might find in a supermarket, aircraft engines are built to spec for different planes and require plenty of lead time to engineer and build.
This is especially so for a new aircraft design where the engines need to be tested and reach certification. Airbus and Boeing fly their new aircraft for around one to two years before they start to deliver the aircraft. For CRAIC, they are less experienced and will need to have as much time to get their design right. And because of this, 2025 is a little too close for comfort.
What do you think? Will they have their first flight and delivery by 2025? Let us know in the comments.