All-new wide-body jetliner on cards as China and Russia unite
Boeing and Airbus are to face a serious contender in the large passenger jet market after China and Russia agreed to develop a rival to the world’s biggest manufacturers of twin-aisle planes.
China’s Comac and the Russian aerospace company United Aircraft Corp (UAC) said on Monday they have agreed to jointly develop the jetliner with an intended range of some 12,000km – enough to make transatlantic crossings with ease or about the distance from London to Singapore. The aircraft will take on Airbus’ A330 and Boeing’s 777 among others in the market.
The joint venture China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Company (Craic) will build the 280-seat plane.
The main responsibility of Craic is to develop a new generation long-range wide-body commercial aircraft and take charge of its commercial operation, according to UAC and Comac.
This month, Comac’s C919, China’s first modern passenger jet, made its maiden test flight from Shanghai.
“The long-range wide-body commercial aircraft is a major strategic and pragmatic cooperation between Chinese and Russian enterprises in the field of high-tech development,” the companies said in Shanghai.
So far, they have completed the industrial and commercial registration process with a business licence.
The establishment of Craic marks an important step forward, said the chairman of Comac, Jin Zhuanglong. “In accordance with international mainstream airworthiness standards, we will develop a competitive long-range wide-body commercial aircraft, provide a better service to the airlines and more contribution to the global aviation market,” he added.
The UAC president Yury Slyusar said: “We would like to develop the wide-body aircraft together, ensure the performance of manufacturing, operation, aftersale’s service, marketing and sales, etc.”
However, building and delivering a new jetliner from scratch is no easy matter as Japan’s Mitsubishi has found. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in January confirmed a two-year delay tfor its MRJ regional jet programme, the fifth time its schedule has been pushed back since launching in 2008.
The first MRJ90 is now targeted to be delivered to its launch customer All Nippon Airways in mid-2020, from a former goal of mid-2018.
As the Sino-Russian programme operator and main manufacturer, Craic is responsible for product and technology development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service, consulting, programme management and other related fields.
The vice president of UAC, Vladislav Masalov, was on Monday appointed as Craic’s chairman while Comac nominated its assistant president Guo Bozhi as first general manager. The board of directors consists of four directors from both sides.
The new entity will implement research and development for the plane and its stretched and shortened versions, all of which Craic plans to be launch between 2025 and 2027, while final assembly will be completed in Shanghai, Mr Slyusar said in Shanghai on Monday.
The new plane will need “billions of US dollars” in investment, he said.
The companies will seek out an engine supplier for the programme and tenders will be sent by the end of the year and for components next year, said Mr Bozhi.
Cheaper costs will be one of the advantages of the new plane, Mr Guo said.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter
Updated: May 22, 2017 04:00 AM