United Aircraft Corporation general director Yury Slyusar met with Rolls-Royce and GE executives Thursday at the MAKS 2019 airshow outside Moscow to talk over Western powerplant alternatives for the joint Russian-Chinese widebody project known as the Craic CR929. The CR929 chief designer from the Russian side of the program, Maxim Litvinov, told AIN at the show that a Western engine choice could come as soon as the second half of next year, when Craic expects to begin naming the various systems suppliers. A second engine alternative—to involve a Sino-Russian partnership—will take somewhat longer to define, he added.
Scheduled for first flight in 2023, the CR929 could reach the market as soon as 2025 if all goes to plan, explained Litvinov. Having reached the conceptual design phase, the partners have fully defined the size, passenger capacity, and range of the airplane. This year the companies held “about four or five” joint engineering sessions in Moscow and Shanghai, during which they discussed workshare arrangements. Plans now call for the Russian side to design, develop, and produce wing consoles, engine mounts, pylons, slats, flaps, and the central wing box, while its Chinese counterpart has taken responsibility for the fuselage, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and wing-to-body fairing. China's Comac would perform final assembly in Shanghai.
The partners have received answers in response to requests for proposals for potential systems suppliers based around the world, he added. “I think we will make some decisions in the second half of next year,” said Litvinov. “Because we have to analyze finance, analyze aftersales support, analyze [everything]...it’s a big one.”
Although Litvinov said he prefers to talk about technology over politics, he acknowledged that the prospect of U.S. economic sanctions against both Russia and China present risks, but more so for the airframe partners than potential Western suppliers such as GE and Rolls-Royce.
“We know about the risks of the sanctions and the market war between the U.S. and China, but companies that don’t like the sanctions and the market war, they’ve [bowed] out [of the program], said Litvinov. “Now we work with companies who try to find other ways; they try to find local sub-suppliers from Russia and China, and we understand this position very clearly. We work with potential suppliers and speak with the companies about sanctions and we try to allay this risk.”
At MAKS, Craic partners UAC and Comac jointly presented a full-scale mockup of the front part of the CR929’s fuselage in a dedicated exhibit hall. Using a metallic nose section for damage mitigation, the CR929 will feature a mainly composite fuselage and wings. It will seat 280 passengers in a three-class configuration and fly to a range of 6,480 nm.