China’s Comac and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) plan to begin manufacturing subassemblies for the Sino-Russian CRAIC CR929 widebody by the end of the year following an apparent end to disagreements last year over sales arrangements that delayed the program’s progress, Chinese state-controlled media reported Tuesday. Having reached the conceptual design phase by 2019, the partners had fully defined the size, passenger capacity, and range of the airplane some two years ago. Using a metallic nose section for damage mitigation, the CR929 would feature a mainly composite fuselage and wings and seat 280 passengers in a three-class configuration while flying to a range of 6,480 nm.
Plans call for the Russian partner 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 expects to perform final assembly in Shanghai.
However, the CRAIC partnership has yet to announce an engine choice for the airplane amid political tensions between the U.S. and both China and Russia. As early as 2019, at the MAKS airshow outside Moscow, a UAC executive conceded that the prospect of U.S. economic sanctions against both Russia and China presented risks, but more so for the airframe partners than potential Western suppliers such as GE and Rolls-Royce, however.
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 2020 when CRAIC expected 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.
However, by mid-2020 a dispute over the management of sales—first reported in the Russian media in April 2019—appeared unresolved despite UAC’s earlier denials about any such disagreement. Allegedly, Beijing wanted to place serial products with local carriers independently, while Moscow would do the same in its domestic market and to the third countries. However, the Russian side balked due to the imbalance between the Chinese and Russian markets. Forecasts for the Chinese market show a sales potential of 1,200 aircraft in the CR929’s capacity range over 20 years starting in 2026, compared with a mere 50 to 120 from Russian airlines.