Despite Western suspicion, the CR929 wide-body jet program would be making great strides, according to COMAC chief designer Chen Yingchun. During an aviation summit in Hangzhou, the executive of the state-owned commercial aircraft company predicted that the CR929 is expected to deliver about 1,000 units between 2023 and 2045, double the volume originally forecast.
The optimism comes from studies that show the wide-body jets will have a demand for 10,000 units in that time interval, almost 20% in China and Russia, which is a partnership in CRAIC, a joint venture formed between COMAC and UAC.
At 63.3 meters long, 61.2 meters wingspan and 18 meters high, the CR929 will be similar in size to a Boeing 787. The smaller variant CR929-600 will be able to carry 280 passengers over distances of 12,000 km.
According to Yingchun, the largest passenger plane ever developed in China will have a state-of-the-art avionics suite and a structure that will use composite materials in more than 50% of its components in addition to another 15% in titanium alloys, which are more resistant and lighter.
The speech of the Chinese chief designer, however, has no real basis in the CR929 schedule. By estimating that the first planes will be delivered in just three years, it is clear that Chen Yingchun is ignoring several facts, including the complexity of developing and certifying an aircraft of this category.
Yingchun also overlooks the difficulty that COMAC faces in completing the design of the C919, a narrow-body similar to the A320, which is in the final stages and flight trials after years of delay. If the Chinese were optimistic, the same cannot be said of the Russians who expect to reduce investment in the project.
Rumors in recent months that the partnership could come to an end have been denied recently when two top executives from the Russian and Chinese governments met to strengthen the bond between the two countries. However, the impression remains that China only wants to obtain technical knowledge from the Russians, especially when handling composite materials, something that the C919 does not have.
China’s determination to create a family of aircraft equal to Boeing and Airbus and the potential of the Chinese aviation market show that the CR929 may one day become a reality even if it is just in one country.