A new challenger to the two giants of the airline industry is to emerge from the East, as China and Russia join forces to develop a long-haul plane to compete for business with Boeing and Airbus.
It marks the coming together of State-owned planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and United Aircraft Corp (UAC) of Russia.
The hunt is now on for them to find suppliers to help make the craft as neither has expertise in the area. However, many observers feel that the initiative is politically motivated so both should be well resourced to compete for what they need. Delivery of the first aircraft is expected to be around the year 2025.
Guo Bozhi, general manager of COMAC’s widebody department, said a 50-50 joint venture based in Shanghai will start operations this year.
Guo said, “A wide-body jet is an extremely complicated product, which will require a lot of skills and require broad industrial knowledge. China and Russia each have their own advantages.”
Descriptions accompanying the model showed the firms plan to make three variants, based on a basic version that will seat 280 and have a range of up to 7,500 miles.
“We will choose suppliers who have rich experience in development, whose products are competitive globally, and who can continually guarantee quality from the development stage until the planes go into operation,” Guo said.
Basing the venture in Shanghai was said to be a mutual decision but there are few reports outlining what each company is investing in the project but rumours are that it is well funded. Yet basing the project in China shows, “where the balance of power is going to be and that reflects the size of the Chinese domestic market,” said Sash Tusa, analyst at London-based consultancy Agency Partners.