China says it has started preliminary design of the CR929 widebody

Aircraft is being developed by COMAC and UAC, but Russians have already signaled that they may leave the program

COMAC’s chief designer, Wu Guanghui, said on Thursday that the CR929 widebody, developed in partnership with Russia’s UAC, had its preliminary design started.

“We selected suppliers for the fuselage and tail structure sections, and preliminary design work began,” Wu told local media.

The engineer, who also holds the position of ‘chief scientist’ of the manufacturer COMAC, led the development of another commercial aircraft, the C919, which is due to receive the Chinese type certificate this Monday, September 19.

The evolution of the program, however, was not detailed by the designer. In recent reports, Russian leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the CR929 project, which is being controlled by Chinese partners.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said in June that the country “are working with China on this project which, in principle, is not going in the direction that suits us. China, as it becomes an industrial giant, is less and less interested in our services.”

CRAIC CR929

Capacity for 280 passengers

The CR929 will be a widebody equivalent to a Boeing or Airbus A330neo, with capacity for around 280 passengers and a range of 12,000 km.

According to Wu, the aircraft will be able to cover 95% of the flight distances required by its customers. Unlike the C919, the long-distance jet will have most of the structure constructed of composite material.

However, the CR929 does not yet have an engine ready to be adopted. Russia develops the PD-35, but is in the early stages of the project while China does not have a similar turbofan available.

In the face of Western embargoes, suppliers like GE, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce or Safran are unlikely to participate in the program.

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