Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China plane widebody

Chinese-Russian jumbo jet unveiled to compete with Boeing and Airbus

A jumbo jet created by China and Russia has been unveiled in a joint venture designed to take on established aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.

A mock-up of the widebody jet, which is created by state-owned plane-makers Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and United Aircraft Corp (UAC) of Russia, was revealed the first time in public during Airshow China, the country’s biggest air expo.

The companies said they have already started the hunt to find suppliers but executives of both firms offered no concrete details on financing and few technical specifications for a project that Western analysts have said is highly ambitious, difficult to pull off and likely to carry a high price.

Guo Bozhi, general manager of COMAC’s widebody department, said a 50-50 joint venture based in Shanghai will start operations this year.

First announced in 2014, the project has been kept largely secret since then. The firms said they want to conduct a maiden flight in 2022 and begin deliveries in 2025.

But Western industry analysts have said these targets are unlikely, saying widebody jets can take decades rather than years to develop.

“A widebody jet is an extremely complicated product, which will require a lot of skills (to develop) and require broad industrial knowledge,” Guo told reporters. “China and Russia each have their own advantages.”

Descriptions accompanying the model showed the firms ultimately envision three variants of the aircraft, based on a basic version that will hold 280 seats with a range of up to 12,000 kilometres.

The decision to base the venture in Shanghai was a “mutual decision” according to Guo, although analysts have said China is the more influential of the two partners.

The firm’s Shanghai headquarters tells “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.

A global effort to search for and assess potential suppliers is now under way, said COMAC, which is separately occupied with pushing its own C919 narrow-body passenger jet towards a long-delayed maiden flight, now aimed for the end of 2016 or early 2017.

 “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.

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