China, Russia take step closer to new long-haul jet

Wed Nov 2, 2016 7:55am EDT
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By Brenda Goh

ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) - China and Russia took a step closer on Wednesday to the joint development of a long-haul jet to challenge Boeing (BA.N: Quote) and Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote), displaying a model of the unnamed plane that would compete with Western rivals.

State-owned planemakers Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) [CMAFC.UL] and United Aircraft Corp (UAC) of Russia said they had started the hunt to find suppliers, as they presented a mock-up of the wide-body jet at Airshow China.

Neither firm gave details on financing or technical specifications for what Western analysts call a politically-driven initiative that will be difficult to pull off and is likely to carry a high price tag.

China opened the show on Tuesday in the southern city of Zhuhai with a brief flypast of its J-20 stealth fighter, in a demonstration of military clout.

Both countries are currently developing smaller narrow-body jets to compete with the best-selling Airbus and Boeing types.

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 so far been slow to materialize. The firms have said they want conduct a maiden flight in 2022 and begin deliveries in 2025 or later.

Western industry analysts consider the target challenging, but more realistic than recent aircraft programs that sought results in 5-7 years and came in late.   Continued...

A man takes picture of the model of a widebody jet, which is planned to be developed by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) at an air show, the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Brenda Goh