Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Zhuhai, China (4E) – China’s first indigenous wide-body, long-haul twinjet airliner, the much-delayed CRAIC CR929, will source most of its critical avionics and other key components from Western firms. The engines of this aircraft might also come from the West.
The CR929 will compete against the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787. It’s being designed as a long-range twinjet airliner seating from 250 to 320 people.
The plane is being jointly developed by China and Russia through a joint venture firm called China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation (CRAIC). The JV partners are Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) from Russia.
CRAIC estimates the development of the aircraft will reach 10 years. A first delivery might take place in 2027 if the program is launched in 2017, which it wasn’t. Early configuration and preliminary design should be completed this year.
Design documentation is scheduled for 2021; first flight for 2023 and introduction by 2025. CRAIC a few days ago unveiled a full-size model of the cockpit and passenger cabin of the CR929 at the opening of the biennial Airshow China, China’s largest airshow, which is ongoing until Nov. 11.
The same-size model or mock-up was 22 meters long, 6.5 meters tall and 5.9 meters wide. It revealed a roomy interior with 9-abreast basic seating in economy class.
The cockpit displayed dummy instruments since the actual systems and their suppliers have yet to be chosen. It featured a sidestick controller similar to the flying control used on Airbus planes.
Designers said the plane’s fuselage will be designed and made by China. The wings will be designed by Russia.
The CR929 will see a higher proportion of parts from Chinese suppliers, but key systems like avionics will rely mostly on Western manufacturers. The engines might also come from Western firms such as GE or Rolls Royce.
“Our program is making progress and is on schedule,” claims UAC President Yury Slyusar. “It is currently in the preliminary design phase and we are also in the supplier and equipment selection phase, which will finish by the end of 2019.”
CR 929 will come in three variants. The first variant, the -500, will carry 250 passengers in three-classes. It will have a range of 14,000 km. The -600 will have 280 seats and a range of 12,000 km while the -700 will carry 320 passengers to 10,000 km.
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