With the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) setting up a booth at the Paris Air Show 2023 and showcasing a COMAC wide-body aircraft as one of its products, was Russia kicked out of the CR929 program?
COMAC’s booth showcased three of its products, namely the ARJ21, C919, and wide-body aircraft, which was shown on a screen with the headline that reads “long range wide-body”. According to the information provided by COMAC to visitors, the twin-aisle jet can seat between 280 and 320 passengers with a range of up to 12,000 kilometers (6,479 nautical miles, 7,456 miles).
However, the words “Comac wide-body” are visible on the aircraft’s tail, front fuselage, as well as the belly.
Its technical specifications are similar to the CR929. That aircraft’s product page is still available on COMAC’s website, both on the Chinese and English versions, stating that the CR929 can seat 280 passengers and fly up to 12,000 km (6,479 nm, 7,456 mi). The “CR929 long-range wide-body passenger aircraft is a dual-aisle civil aircraft jointly developed by China and Russia,” according to the Chinese plane maker’s product page of the twin-aisle jet.
Furthermore, the visualizations on the Chinese company’s website still have the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) on the aircraft, with the CR929 name being placed where, now, the words “Comac wide-body” are spelled out.
UAC, COMAC’s Russian partner on the project, also still lists the CR929. However, clicking on the model returns you back to the company’s homepage.
Sanctions impacting the CR929 project
According to a report by the Russian news agency Interfax in August 2022, the Chief Executive Officer of UAC Yuri Slyusar said that the CR929 project will be “updated”.
“The pandemic has changed the air transportation market, changed the requirements for range, passenger capacity, performance, fuel cost. Accordingly, the sanctions pressure that we experienced has changed the composition of cooperation,” Slyusar explained at the time. According to the chief executive, lockdowns and sanctions imposed upon Russia following its invasion of Ukraine left an impact on the project, which is why UAC has to “update the format of participation”.
Later in 2022, Denis Manturov, the Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia, said that Russia might become “a supplier of units and components” rather than a full partner, according to another Interfax report from March 2023.
According to a report by The Air Current from June 20, 2023, an industry official confirmed that COMAC will continue developing the wide-body aircraft without Russia. Another report by iXBT, a Russian news site focused on technologies, reported that the paths of COMAC and UAC “finally diverged, leaving only the possibility of some kind of cooperation”.
The CR929 was initially scheduled to enter service in 2026 or 2027.