Comac’s in-development C929 widebody programme appears to be progressing, despite the Chinese airframer having quietly dropped its Russian joint-venture partner.
Qi Xuefeng, Comac’s deputy general manager, says the programme has entered a “detailed design” stage, but does not elaborate further.
Qi, who was speaking at the inaugural aviation conference organised by the China Air Travel Association, used the ‘C929’ moniker to describe the programme, a tacit acknowledgement that Russia is no longer a co-developer.
The programme – which has been long plagued by delays – was formerly known as the CR929, reflecting Sino-Russian collaboration between Comac and United Aircraft (UAC). However, in the months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and amid growing international sanctions, Comac is seemingly distancing itself from its former partners.
At 2023’s Paris air show, Comac’s stand labelled the C929 programme as the ‘Comac widebody’, removing any mention of Russian involvement.
Qi’s comments on 3 November confirm speculation that UAC has been downgraded to the role of supplier. A report by China’s state-owned Global Times on 6 November also notes that the C929 programme is “now being independently developed by China”.
The C929, which has yet to secure firm commitments, is envisaged to compete against Airbus and Boeing widebodies, including the A330, A350 and 787. It will have around 280 seats and has a range of up to 6,480nm (12,000km), according to Comac.
The airframer’s two other aircraft programmes, the ARJ21 regional jet and C919 narrowbody, “have been operating smoothly,” Qi added. Comac has delivered more than 100 ARJ21s, and the type has entered service with its first overseas operator in Indonesia.