China, Russia developing jet to compete with Boeing and Airbus

Shanghai, ChinaUpdated: Nov 03, 2016, 10:54 AM IST
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A model aircraft sits on display at the COMAC air stand at an international air show. (Representative image) Photograph:(AFP)

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) are investing up to $20 billion to develop a long-haul jet.

COMAC said in a statement that the two countries would develop a 280-seat wide-body plane with a range of 12,000 kilometres. Beijing aims at challenging leading Western manufacturers Boeing and Airbus with their project which will be set up in Shanghai this year.

The jet make its maiden flight in seven years, COMAC said. Deliveries will begin three years after that. 

The project is worth between $13 billion and $20 billion, with each side contributing half, Global Times, China's state-run newspaper quoted UAC president Yury Slyusar as saying.

“COMAC has outstanding technology and designs and we will not only cooperate in technology but also in intellectual property,” Slyusar told the newspaper at the China Airshow in Zhuhai, adding that the plane will be 10 percent cheaper than its competitors. 

The listed price of a 280-seat Airbus A350 is $272.4 million, while a 290-seat Boeing 787 costs $264.6 million.

The hugely ambitious plan was first agreed upon in June when Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing, AFP reported.

Previous Chinese aerospace projects have suffered lengthy delays because of the challenges of developing a commercial aircraft.

COMAC said it will keep the project open and select global suppliers that are willing to “jointly shoulder risks," AFP reported.

Beijing, which aims at becoming the world's largest aviation market, is looking to build up its domestic aerospace industry. The sector is among those highlighted in its “Made in China 2025” plan.

Airbus estimates China will need nearly 6,000 new planes worth $945 billion in the next two decades, thanks to an ever-increasing number of travellers taking to the skies. Boeing's forecast of more than $1 trillion is even more optimistic 

COMAC is also developing its own single-aisle jet, the C919. It rolled it out last year and even though it has yet to make its first flight, it has so far received 570 orders from 23 customers, AFP quoted COMAC as saying.

The firm's regional jet, the 90-seat ARJ21, flew its first commercial flight in June after years of delays.

(WION with inputs from AFP)