China and Russia are expediting the initial design work for the CR929, arguably the world’s only new wide-body, two-aisle passenger jet to be manufactured by an entity other than Boeing and Airbus.

The CR929’s external design was unveiled at the Zhuhai Airshow in November 2016, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s May visit to China during which Russian aerospace conglomerate United Aircraft Corporation and Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) entered a contract for the joint development of a wide-body plane that could ultimately rival Boeing’s 787 and Airbus’ brand-new A350, both of which are cash cows for the two aircraft manufacturers.

The plane, the first stage of whose design has been finalized, will have a maximum seating capacity of 280 and a range of 12,000 kilometers, more than twice the length of the air route between Beijing and Moscow, and be capable of flying from Beijing to New York City non-stop.

Both sides hope the plane can get airborne for its maiden commercial flight some time between 2025 and 2027, Global Times reports.

The engine will be mainly designed by Russian technicians and assembled at Comac’s Shanghai plant, where the main fuselage will also be welded, while its wings will be manufactured in Russia.

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A model of the CR929 is seen at the inauguration ceremony for a joint venture co-invested by Russia’s United Aircraft Corp and China’s Comac. Photo: Comac

Still, more details must be negotiated and clarified between the two parties, even after a joint venture has already been set up, and everything is still in an early stage as it normally takes more than a decade from design to manufacture and to qualification, Hong Kong-based Kanwa Defense Review reports, citing United Aircraft Corp president Yury Slyusar.

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A diagram compares the sizes of the Comac C919 and the C929, now called CR929.

Observers say Moscow will contribute much of the technical expertise, given its long-running experience in jet and engine manufacturing, including the four-engine wide-body Ilyushin Il-86 and Il-96 that have been in commercial service for decades, while Beijing will bear much of the overall investment with the aim of technical transfer from the Russian partner.

Meanwhile, the first Chinese-made twin-jet narrow-body airliner, C919, is undergoing further qualification tests, a process that will take years to complete, before it can fly paying passengers.

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