China and Russia Collaborate on New Wide-Body Passenger Jet

May 26, 2017

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For decades, Airbus and Boeing have had a handle on most of the worldwide commercial jet market. Russia has been around, but always trailing far behind in terms of market share. China is up and coming, and has recently introduced a jet of its own. But now, China and Russia are partnering to design and build a brand new wide-body jet that aims to really bite into the established manufacturers.

A mock-up scale model of the proposed COMAC C929. Photo credit to STR/AFP/Getty Images.
A mock-up scale model of the proposed COMAC C929. Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images.

This week, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) confirmed a joint venture to build a large, long-range jet that will seat around 280 people, and is expected to enter service in the middle of the next decade. China is already calling the jet the “C929.” The development and construction of the plane will take place in Shanghai. The capacity will put it near the same as Airbus’ popular A330 and A350 series, as well as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The COMAC C919 makes its first flight on May 5th, Photo by VCG via Getty Images.
The COMAC C919 makes its first flight on May 5, Photo by VCG via Getty Images.

In the near term, both companies are in the process of developing and certifying their own narrow-body jets that are meant to compete with Airbus’ A320 series and the Boeing 737 MAX family. COMAC’s C919 flew for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and Russia’s Irkut MC-21 is performing taxi tests, with its first flight expected very soon.

The Irkut MC-21 at its rollout ceremony last June. Photo by Marina Lystseva / Getty Images.
The Irkut MC-21 at its rollout ceremony last June. Photo by Marina Lystseva / Getty Images.

Although the two countries are competing against each other in the narrow-body market, they’re hoping two heads are better than one in the wide-body arena. It also remains to be seen if suppliers will be able to keep up with a new manufacturer in addition to the more entrenched Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer. Supplier delays have kept new planes from entering service on time in the past.

At this point, there are not many details on the plane, and there have been no orders announced, but with the Paris Air Show coming up next month, we may see the first order announcements made from that international stage. We should expect the first orders to come from China and Russia’s native carriers, but if diplomatic relations were to sour between the US or France and other prospective customer countries, we could see additional orders go to the newcomer aircraft.

Featured image via VCG / Getty Images

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