China and Russia’s candidate to challenge the Airbus and Boeing duopoly in the widebody passenger market will be an aircraft of similar length and slightly wider than the size of an Airbus A330-900, media reports suggest.
The China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation (CRAIC) joint-venture recently unveiled further details of its proposed CR929 widebody.
The details, first published by Aviation Week on May 23, show an aircraft with a fuselage 63.25m long and 5.92m wide. This is almost as long as the A330-900’s length of 63.7m. However, the A330-900 has a narrower fuselage at 5.64m. The dimensions are also broadly similar to the Boeing 787-9.
The aircraft is described as a long-range, twin-aisle passenger aircraft, with a potential range of about 6,480nm and estimated capacity of 280 passengers. Although the choice of engines is yet to be announced, designers have said previously the aircraft will require powerplants capable of delivering 78,000lbs of thrust.
While the CR929’s dimensions are still subject to further refining, having already gone through a number of iterations since the concept was launched in 2015, the aircraft is pitched at the medium widebody market that is ripe for replacement in the years ahead.
Consider there are scores of A330s and older generation 777-200/300s due for replacement in the coming decade. Chinese airlines in particular are prolific operators of A330s.
In particular, China’s biggest three carriers Air China, China Eastern and China Southern having about 150 A330-200/300s between them. Add in the A330 fleets of Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and others and the figure quickly jumps above 200.
The CR929’s projected entry into service is expected in the 2025-2028 timeframe.
The JV is a partnership between China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s PJSC United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) that was formed in 2017. UAC’s commercial aviation unit is Sukhoi.
While the CR929 would be the first widebody passenger aircraft to be built by either China or Russia, both countries have embarked on commercial aircraft programs in the narrowbody sector in recent times.
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China’s COMAC also has two narrowbody aircraft in its lineup, the ARJ21 regional jet and C919 narrowbody.
The ARJ21 regional jet is currently in service with Chengdu Airlines, with first delivery taking place in 2016. The ARJ21-700, with its rear-mounded engines, is deigned to seat 90 passengers in a one-class layout. The program has received about 300 orders from mostly Chinese airlines. It is powered General Electric CF34-10A engines, which are also used on the Bombardier CRJ and Embraer E-Jet airliners, as well as on some business jets.
The C919 is still in development, with the aircraft currently in the flight testing phase which commenced in 2017. The narrowbody, which is similar in capacity and range to the Airbus A320, Boeing 737 and Bombardier C Series family of aircraft at 168 passengers in a single class and up to 3,000nm. It will be powered by either the CFM LEAP 1-C or ACAE CJ-1000A engine.
China Eastern is the launch customer of the program, with entry into service scheduled for 2021. There have been about 770 orders and commitments for the aircraft. And similar to the C919, Chinese airlines or leasing companies dominate the order book.
On the Russian side, Sukhoi has two narrowbody programs, the in-service SSJ100 and in-development SSJ130.
The SSJ100, which seats up to 108 passengers, commenced commercial operations with launch customer Armavia in 2011. Other airlines who fly the type include Russia flag carrier Aeroflot, Ireland regional carrier CityJet and Mexico’s Interjet. The program, which uses SaM-146 wing-mounted engines from PowerJet, has accumulated about 200 orders, according to industry estimates.
Sukhoi has also proposed building the SSJ130, which is designed to seat 130-145 passengers to be introduced in 2020.
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