China and Russia to invest up to $28b in long-haul jet

A model of the planned jet on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai on Wednesday. It will compete directly with the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A-350.
A model of the planned jet on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai on Wednesday. It will compete directly with the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A-350.PHOTO: REUTERS

Proposed plane to be 10% cheaper than competitors', with first flight in 7 years' time

SHANGHAI • China and Russia will invest up to US$20 billion (S$27.7 billion) to develop a long-haul wide-bodied jet, reports and a company statement said, as Beijing seeks to challenge leading Western manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.

The hugely ambitious plan was first agreed between the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), whose products include the Sukhoi Superjet 100, when Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart, Mr Xi Jinping, in Beijing in June.

Comac said in a statement yesterday that the joint venture, to be set up in Shanghai this year, will develop a 280-seat, wide-bodied plane with a range of 12,000km.

That would put it in direct competition with Boeing's 787 and the Airbus A-350.

The project is worth between US$13 billion and US$20 billion, with each side contributing half, China's state-run Global Times newspaper yesterday 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," Mr Slyusar told the newspaper at Airshow China in the southern city of Zhuhai. He added that the plane will be 10 per cent cheaper than its competitors.

According to the websites of the Western plane manufacturers, the list price of a 280-seat Airbus A-350 is US$272.4 million, while a 290-seat Boeing 787 costs US$264.6 million.

Their putative China-Russian rival will make its first flight in seven years' time, Comac said, with deliveries beginning three years later.

But developing commercial aircraft is an advanced technological challenge, and previous Chinese aerospace projects have suffered lengthy delays.

Comac said it will keep the project open and select global suppliers that are willing to "jointly shoulder risks".

Beijing is looking to build up its domestic aerospace industry, with the sector among those highlighted in its "Made in China 2025" plan.

The country is expected to become the world's largest aviation market, with its travellers taking to the skies in ever-growing numbers.

Airbus estimates that China will need nearly 6,000 new planes worth US$945 billion in the next two decades, with Boeing's forecast even more optimistic at more than US$1 trillion.

Comac is also developing its own single-aisle jet, the C-919. It rolled it out last year, and even though it has yet to make its first flight, Comac said it has so far received 570 orders from 23 customers.

The firm's regional jet, the 90-seat ARJ-21, flew its first commercial flight in June after years of delays.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'China and Russia to invest up to $28b in long-haul jet'. Print Edition | Subscribe